The 7 Most Endangered Historic Places in Hawai‘i

The Historic Hawai‘i Foundation, the state Historic Preservation Division and HONOLULU Magazine compile an annual list of some of our state’s most endangered places.


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the kapuāiwa coconut grove on moloka‘i is one of the year’s most endangered places.
Photo: PF Bentley

 

From ancient springs to one-of-a-kind churches, the Islands are full of gems that illustrate our culture. Many have been around for decades—some, centuries—and have survived tsunamis, lava flows and, of course, development.The Historic Hawai‘i Foundation, the state Historic Preservation Division and HONOLULU Magazine compile an annual list of some of our state’s most endangered places.

 

They remind us of our past. And, without them, we lose more than just a point on the map.

 

Each year, HONOLULU Magazine partners with the Historic Hawai‘i Foundation and the state Historic Preservation Division to explore some of our treasures that are threatened, because of neglect, money, ignorance or even bugs. But “endangered” implies there’s still hope for us to see the value in these places, and do something to save them, before it’s too late. Here are this year’s picks.

 

Kanewai Spring Complex

Location: Honolulu, O‘ahu 

the maunalua fishpond heritage center has spent years cleaning up the kanewai spring.
Photo: John Johnson 

 

Prior to Henry J. Kaiser’s development of Hawai‘i Kai, the area boasted one of the largest fishponds on O‘ahu. Now, only a few fishponds remain on the East Side, including the Kanewai Fishpond, which is fed by a freshwater spring that ancient Hawaiians relied on when they lived in the caves above. The fishpond is connected to Paikō Lagoon, a wildlife sanctuary, which hosts many local and endangered plants and wildlife. The area also has a coconut grove, quarried stone-block walls made without mortar, a fishing shrine and gate systems for catching fish.

 

What Threatens it? 

Currently, the nonprofit Maunalua Fishpond Heritage Center acts as steward, taking care of the area through an agreement with the landowner. It has spent the past five years cleaning it up, removing trash, overgrowth and invasive species, and bringing in school and community groups to help. “It’s really come to life,” says Chris Cramer, president of the group. But, because it’s now such an attractive area, foreign buyers are looking to purchase the property, which could limit access, education and cultural initiatives, and preservation. Worst-case scenario, new buyers could demolish it, even convert the spring to a swimming-pool area, which would endanger local wildlife.

 

What can be done?

The Trust for Public Land wants to purchase the complex so it can be restored and preserved in perpetuity. “We are in the process of trying to raise funds to both purchase the Kanewai Spring property and to set Maunalua Fishpond Heritage Center up for success as steward,” says Laura Kaakua, Native Lands project manager for the trust. “I think everybody, including the landowner, is very impressed with what Maunalua Fishpond Heritage Center has been able to do in turning the spring around ... what we’re trying to do is just lock in the property with a purchase agreement. It’s a matter of raising funds in time.” The organization has until next summer to raise approximately $3.3 million from city and state funding and private donations, which would also go toward creating an educational and cultural center on the property. Learn more or donate at kanewaispring.org.

 

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Honolulu Magazine October 2018