Big Isle land deal transfers site care to cultural group
Hale Mua will care for the ancient village on the Kona coast
Descendants of Hawaiians who lived in the ancient village of Kaawaloa on the Big Island's Kona Coast will take care of the settlement under an agreement with the state.
The state Board of Land and Natural Resources unanimously approved a plan on Friday to hand over care of the 40-acre village site to the Hale Mua Cultural Group, Stephens Media reported.
The area is inside the 375-acre Kealakekua Bay State Historical Park.
The agreement between the state and Hale Mua, a nonprofit run by Royal Order of Kamehameha I, covers a five-year period.
"(We) will work closely with Hale Mua Cultural Group to make things pono at Kaawaloa," said Alika Desha of the Royal Order of Kamehameha I. "Our task is to correct the past neglect and return it to its rightful dignity. This is our pledge."
Their first job will likely be to clear vegetation from the archaeological sites so they can be catalogued and protected.
Peter Young, land board chairman, supported the transfer.
"Some people may not understand the significance of this, but I do," Young said. "We look forward to working with you on finally being able to do the right things in the right place at the right time with the right people. ... This is a big deal."
The five-year agreement is in addition to a master plan that is currently being worked out. That process will include standard permitting procedures and plenty of opportunity for public input, Young said.
Betsy Morrigan, a commercial kayak tour operator and president of the Kayak Association of the Islands, said she was concerned about changes to the state park, especially if they curtailed kayakers.
"There are issues and concerns that I think are worth looking at if you choose to go ahead with this," Morrigan told the board. "Will people be kept out of the park while this work is being done? ... Where will the debris go? Will there be runoff? ... We all want this beautiful place to last."
The Kona chapter of the Royal Order -- which makes up the majority of the Hale Mua Cultural Group's board -- already cares for the Lekeleke Burial Grounds on the Big Island.
They also help with repairs and educational outreach at Heiau O Ahuena at Kamakahonu.