A meeting tonight in Lahaina called by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will help shape the restoration of Moku'ula, a political and spiritual center of Hawaii and home of ancient chiefs.
Finding out what people envision as they look mauka toward Moku'ula in the Malu'ulu o Lele Park area is what this meeting is about, said Zeke Kalua, executive assistant to Mayor Alan Arakawa, assigned to Lahaina, Molokai and Hawaiian affairs.
Exactly how the restoration in West Maui will unfold is "still to be determined," and this meeting at the Lahaina Civic Center beginning at 6:30 p.m. is "to get a feel for what people want to see," he said.
The corps, which was invited by the county to join the process, will use the meeting to help develop a feasibility study for the restoration of Moku'ula and its surrounding pond, Mokuhinia. Kalua explained that the corps was asked to join the process because the county did not have the knowhow to restore the pond system and Moku'ula, the royal residence of King Kamehameha III when he governed the islands from Lahaina.
This meeting is "all about understanding" what the community wants "before we put pen to paper . . . on any plans," said Joseph Bonfiglio, chief of public affairs for the Army Corps in Honolulu.
Historically, Mokuhinia was a 17-acre pond, one in a series of coastal wetlands along the shoreline of West Maui, the Army Corps news release said. Mokuhinia is cited in Hawaiian moolelo, or traditions, as the home of the moo akua, or lizard goddess, Kihawahine, who was the protective deity of the Maui royal family line that gave rise to King Kamehameha III.
From 1837 to 1845, the inland island of Moku'ula was the royal residence of King Kamehameha III when Lahaina served as the capital of the Hawaiian Kingdom. In 1845, the capital of the kingdom was relocated to Honolulu and Moku'ula began to decrease in prominence, the news release said.
In the early 20th century, a public project was implemented to fill Mokuhinia, and in 1918, Executive Order 52 established the site as Malu'ulu o Lele Park, which is managed by the county. The waterway and Moku'ula are about 2 to 6 feet underground, the news release said.
The restoration of Moku'ula and Mokuhinia is a joint project between the Army Corps, the county and the Friends of Moku'ula. The friends are currently seeking permits to build two hale, like those at Kamehameha Iki Park, plus a parking lot and restrooms, said Kalua. The work is expected to cost about $2 million.
Shirley Kaha'i, executive director of the Friends of Moku'ula, said that the project application was submitted to the county in November. She is not sure when the application process will be completed.
Archaeological work, which had been put on hold in December, is expected to resume in August with the University of Hawaii Maui College, she said.
The county has been moving public recreational facilities, such as softball fields and tennis and basketball courts, out of Malu'ulu o Lele in preparation for the redevelopment of Moku'ula, said Kalua.
The Army Corps role is specifically to restore the wetland ecosystem and to protect endangered species, said Bonfiglio. But the corps understands and is aware of the other proposed plans and the need to take "a holistic view of what we are doing," he said.
As part of the feasibility study, the corps will evaluate opportunities for aquatic ecosystem restoration and conduct an environmental assessment, the news release said. The results of the feasibility phase will be presented in a feasibility report and integrated environmental assessment.
If the project goes through, the federal government and the county will share the cost of the redevelopment, said Bonfiglio. No funds for the actual reconstruction work have been allocated by the federal and county governments, said Bonfiglio and Kalua.
"Being that this a culturally sensitive area, we want to encourage as much participation from the public as possible . . . so as not to offend anybody," Kalua said.
Written comments will be accepted until Aug. 1 to be included in the feasibility report and environmental assessment. Comments may be mailed to Athline Clark, USACE Honolulu District, CEPOH-PP-C Building 230, Fort Shafter 96858-5440 or emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org.
For more information, contact Clark at (808) 835-4032 or Kalua at 270-7855.
* Lee Imada can be reached at email@example.com.