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Kaua?i Non-Profit Rallies to Buy, Restore 600-Year-Old Hawaiian Fishpond

A grassroots effort is underway for a local non-profit to purchase an ancient Hawaiian fishpond on Kaua?i. The Alakoko Fishpond was recently put on the market with a pricetag of $3 million dollars.

The 600-year-old Alakoko Fishpond on Kaua?i was once the most productive fishpond in N?wiliwili. Thousands of community volunteers have mobilized over the past two and a half years to restore that bounty. The charge is being led by the local non-profit M?lama Hul??ia.

“We’ve removed 26 acres of mangrove and planted about five acres of plants and just been doing a lot of education about fishponds and it’s importance,” says Peleke Flores, Operations and Community Outreach Manager at M?lama Hul??ia.

The group has been working under a 20-year lease with the current landowner. But now that the land’s up for sale, M?lama Hul??ia Executive Director Sara Bowen sees an opportunity.

“M?lama Hul??ia is partnering with the Trust for Public Lands to coordinate funding so that we can be the ones to purchase the property,” says Bowen, “So that we can put the fishpond in conservation and preservation for community use for perpetuity.”

Reyna Ramolete Hayashi is the Aloha ??ina Project Manager at the Trust for Public Lands Hawai?i. Over the past 42 years, the trust has helped communities statewide acquire about 56,000 acres for conservation or preservation.

“What’s awesome about M?lama Hul??ia is that they have established themselves,” says Hayashi, “They’ve engaged thousands of volunteers. They’ve put their love and aloha into that place. And that, that isn't always the case.”

Hayashi says the biggest challenge however will be raising the $3 million in this economy.

But Flores is optimistic. He says restoring one of Kaua?i’s largest Hawaiian fishponds could inspire others across the state to think about restoring their own community’s fishpond.

“Because if we could get this thing going up and running, there's no reason we cannot get the rest,” says Flores.

Kuʻuwehi Hiraishi is a general assignment reporter at Hawaiʻi Public Radio. Her commitment to her Native Hawaiian community and her fluency in ʻōlelo Hawaiʻi has led her to build a de facto ʻōiwi beat at the news station. Send your story ideas to her at khiraishi@hawaiipublicradio.org.
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