Thursday, July 10, 2003

Group works
to restore islet

LAHAINA >> A nonprofit group plans to tear up a parking lot to uncover a portion of a islet where Hawaiian royalty resided in the early 1800s, guarded, according to lore, by a lizard goddess.


The restoration of Mokuula islet and Mokuhinia Pond in Lahaina, once the capital of Hawaii, is regarded by some as one of the most important undertakings in the preservation of Hawaiian history.

"It's a super-sacred site," said former Bishop Museum ethno-historian Paul Klieger. "I would put it sort of at the level of the restoration of Iolani Palace."

The Friends of Moku'ula's proposal for the first phase of restoration has been submitted to the county for review.

No dates have been set yet by respective commissions to discuss the proposal.

The proposed first phase encompasses 4.7 acres of land that the county has leased to the group for a nominal fee.

Before the demolition of the 74-stall parking lot at Front and Shaw streets, the group wants to build a replacement parking area mauka of the nearby Salvation Army.

Friends of Moku'ula Executive Director Akoni Akana said the $1.2 million project includes the development of an 84-stall parking lot, along with development of an 1,800-square-foot meeting center, or hale halawai, and a cooking house with washroom facilities, or a hale pohaku.

Friends of Moku'ula plans to use the facilities, including the development of a paid-parking facility, to support its operation.

Klieger and other researchers are writing grant proposals to find money for conducting the archaeological dig at the old parking lot and an adjacent northern parcel once used as the softball field.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is also conducting a study to look at the possible restoration of Mokuhinia Pond, according to the Friends of Moku'ula.

Researchers estimate that depending on different points in history, the pond was 11 to 17 acres, and the islet with a berm for a footpath was about 1 acre.

Akana said his group has not determined the expanse of the restoration and will be looking at the corps' study in helping it make a determination.

The group has discussed eventually moving all recreational activities at the adjacent Malu-ulu-olele Park to facilities mauka of the West Maui Youth Center.

Softball activities, halted after burials were found in 1995 during an archaeological dig, have been moved to new facilities near the youth center.

Akana said once the group receives the permit approvals, he expects the development to take about 10 months.

In the early 1800s, Lahaina served as the capital of the Hawaiian islands, and Moku'ula was regarded as a sacred island occupied by Maui royalty and later by descendants of King Kamehameha I, who conquered the rulers on the Valley Isle.

Moku'ula was a moated palace guarded by Kihawahine, a legendary moo, or lizard goddess, who dwelled in the surrounding waters of Mokuhinia Pond and was the daughter of Maui King Piilani before her death.

The islet was once the home of King Kamehameha III and the resting place of his sister Princess Nahienaena in a royal mausoleum.

After the capital was moved to Honolulu, the islet and pond slowly fell into disrepair. By about 1914, Pioneer Mill workers covered the pond and islet.

The area became a county park by 1918.


Restoration fund-raiser
set for Saturday on Maui

LAHAINA >> Friends of Moku'ula will be holding a fund-raising luau and concert Saturday.

The event takes place from 5:30 to 9 p.m. at the Old Lahaina Luau grounds at 1251 Front St. The money will go to supporting education in Hawaiian history and restoring Mokuhinia Pond and Mokuula islet, where royalty once lived in the early 1800s.

Entertainers include the Kano'eau Dance Academy, the Old Lahaina Luau dancers, Owana Salazar, Raiatea Helm, Nathan Aweau, Palani Vaughn, Barry Flanagan and Ernie Cruz.

The luau and concert also will feature a silent auction of Hawaiian cultural items.

Tickets are $75 a person. Corporate tables of eight are available for $600. Call the Friends of Moku'ula office at 808-661-3659 for bookings.


E-mail to City Desk


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