More than 800 years ago, residents of the He'eia ahupua'a constructed an 88-acre fishpond to stockpile fish during the winter months when deep-sea fishing was dangerous. On Saturday, May 12 about 100 volunteers from Hawaiian Electric Company partnered with Paepae o He'eia, Friends of He'eia Fishpond to help restore the ancient fishpond and revitalize one of Hawai'i's unique cultural resources.
"This is our largest People Power volunteer effort of the year so far," said Kathleen Freitas, volunteer coordinator for Hawaiian Electric. "Since many of our volunteers live or have families that reside on the windward side, we are happy to get dirty to help restore a piece of Hawai'i's history and culture while preserving a precious environmental resource for the community."
"We appreciate when companies like Hawaiian Electric become involved in these culturally significant projects," said Hi'ilei Kawelo, executive director of Paepae o He'eia. "As a community, we need to preserve and protect these unique cultural treasures, places of traditional agriculture and aquaculture, because of their application and use today. I personally look forward to a more sustainable future, one in which we grow our own food and produce our own energy."
At times, working waist deep in brackish water, volunteers hefted some 100 buckets of rock and coral-weighing in around 30 pounds each-and floated a barge with larger coral pieces to refurbish the 1.3-mile-long kuapa or rock wall that in some areas stands 10 to 14 feet in width. Known as a loko kuapa, or walled fishpond, the He'eia fishpond is unique since the wall completely encircles the pond.
Constructed of pohaku (basalt rock) and ko'a (coral), the kuapa is the very backbone and essence of Hawaiian fishponds. Refurbishment starts by removing all mangrove and invasive plants that are damaging the wall. Sections of the wall that need to be repaired are then restacked using a traditional Hawaiian method of dry-stacking. Coral is then used to fill in behind the stacked rocks.
"It's important to note that it was the community that constructed the fishpond centuries ago, and it was the community that helped to maintain it and in turn were the beneficiaries of the goods," added Kawelo. "Today should be no different. While the lines of community are not as defined as they were traditionally, the same concept still applies: it is the community that will restore the pond and continue our works into the future."
Established in 2001, Paepae o He'eia is a private non-profit organization dedicated to the preservation of the ancient fishpond for the benefit of the community. Paepae o He'eia holds community workdays on the second Saturday of the month (except January) and invites the public to join them in their ongoing preservation efforts. For more information, call 236-6178 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.