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Friends of Moku‘ula look to manifest vision

By Staff | May 31, 2012

The restored Moku‘ula and Mokuhinia would dramatically change the area near Malu-ulu-o-lele Park along Front Street.

LAHAINA – The water is percolating just inches under the surface.

The edges of the island have been exposed.

Visions and missions have been crafted; plans and images have been drawn.

Costly environmental studies are ongoing. Priorities have been determined, and budgets calculated.

Moku’ula, the sacred island sanctuary and royal island compound of the ali’i nui, is indeed rising again, buoyed by the restoration of Mokuhinia, the vibrant surrounding spring-fed wetland ponds.

Leading the charge is the Friends of Moku’ula (FOM).

“Since 2000, the last decade, what Akoni (Akana) and Friends of Moku’ula is trying to do is educate, get people involved, get them excited about the project, to learn about it, why it’s so significant,” FOM Vice President Karee Carlucci explained.

The non-profit’s outreach is impressive: 10,000 residents, visitors and students have received free educational tours; 8,000 cruise ship visitors and 4,000 independent travelers have experienced a guided Maui Nei cultural tour of historic Lahaina; 50,000 Hawaii residents and visitors have learned about Moku’ula at statewide conferences and events; nearly 1,000 volunteers have contributed 5,000 hours to Moku’ula programs; and 110 University of Hawaii Maui College students have participated in the Moku’ula archeological field program.

“We have employed actually 75 residents of Hawaii throughout the years,” Carlucci added.

“We’ve spread the vision as much as we can. Now we have to move forward with manifestation,” Carlucci announced. Recent FOM strategic planning has resulted in specifically mapped objectives, leading to the ultimate goal.

“The vision now for all of the FOM is: ‘The rain clouds are returning to Moku’ula,’ meaning the fresh water, the richness of the area coming down from Pu’u Kukui through the Ahupua’a of Wainee and all the way down to Mokuhinia ponds,” she said.

“If the rain clouds come back,” Carlucci continued with passion, “if the fresh water, the treasure comes back, that means Moku’ula is being resurrected.”

There are seven projects that have been designated and priced, and the commission of each is interdependent, vitally connected.

With the phases dependent on funding sources, time-framing is a challenge.

Generally, the multi-pronged vision will take ten to 12 years to complete at a cost ranging from $53 million to $73 million.

Work is slated to commence on the plot off Shaw Street, the entrance to the complex, mauka of the Salvation Army, in 2012.

The project scope is two-phased. Construction begins on the makai side of the plot with grading and installation of a parking lot, utilities, rock walls and landscaping. The price tag is $2 million.

For an additional $2.1 million, the mauka side of the plot will be developed, including the construction of Hale Halawai and Hale Pohaku and surrounding features.

According to Carlucci, the Hale Halawai, with an indigenous architectural design, is set aside for Native Hawaiian practices.

The Hale Pohaku is a stone building in the plantation-style designed for community functions with a kitchen, bathrooms and gathering place, she added.

Negotiations for the acquisition of the Salvation Army have been ongoing for years. The $2.6 million purchase is planned for execution in 2013 and includes the $300,000 demolition of the existing makai parking lot next door.

The restoration of the wetlands/ Mokuhinia – a major, eight-year, $10 million to $20 million undertaking – is ongoing.

“Again, we’re looking at the (county) Parks and Recreation facilities that have been there on the site since the 20th century,” said Carlucci.” The tennis courts on Front (Street) and Mokuhinia will need to be removed as well as the small tennis court in the back next to Waiola Church.”

This is planned in 2014-15 at a cost of $300,000.

“The county has already compensated for the loss of these tennis courts,” Carlucci explained. “They have built new courts at Lahaina Civic Center. They’ve restored the basketball courts at the West Maui Youth Center/Recreational Park. All of this has been part of the big plan and in the works already.

“The other huge project is the archeological dig If you bring in professional archeologists and student programs, college students and professors, we figure the cost of all that will average out to about $200,000 a year for at least ten years.”

One of the final stages is the relocation of the sewage lift station currently bordering the project on the makai side adjacent to the park restroom facility.

With the utility removed, the guarded causeway leading to the entrance of the royal complex can be rebuilt.

Designing and implementation of the utility relocation will cost about $24 million over five years commencing in 2017.

Needless to say, the dream is extensive, and the projects are expensive.

“We can’t do it by ourselves. We need the whole community to resurrect the site,” Carlucci said matter-of-fact.

“‘A’ohe hana nui ke alu ‘ai” is the new FOM slogan: “No task is too big when done together by all.”

“The whole community has to buy in on it,” Carlucci commented.

“Talk to people – anybody that might want to donate, help or write a check. Talk to your Congress members; talk to your state representatives. Get people excited about this,” she continued.

“What this does for the Lahaina community is to bring us all together to have this pride in this sense of place.

“Let’s build something, create something that will make us all proud and share it with the world.”