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New cultural park opens by Lahaina Public Library

By Staff | Feb 6, 2020

Students from King Kamehameha III Elementary School learn to plant taro at the new cultural park at Apuakehau.

LAHAINA – A new cultural park with Native Hawaiian plants and trees on the re-landscaped lawn by Lahaina Public Library facing Front Street opened last week with students from King Kamehameha III Elementary School and Holy Innocents Preschool planting several varieties of kalo (taro) on the historic site.

The Hawaiian place name for this area is Apuakehau, translated by Inez Ashdown as “the gentle land breeze bringing the dew to the blossoms.”

This park is the second phase of the Lahaina Harbor Front Improvement Project, a community planned and county-funded project initiated in 2011 by Lahaina Restoration Foundation as the IMAGINE Project.

Phase one is the area in front of the Lahaina Small Boat Harbor with trellises, landscaping and brick-like pavers that was completed in 2018.

The third phase, still being planned, is the area makai of the library. This site includes the Hau’ula Stone, the archeological site of the brick palace and the site of a Hawaiian hale built for Queen Ka’ahumanu.

The makai site is also notable as the location of a “long house” where the first Constitution of the Kingdom of Hawaii was written.

With input from the community and Maui Friends of the Library, Landscape Architect Russell Gushi created the design for the park at Apuakehau.

Contractor Betsill Brother LLC and Landscaper Bill Davis, of Makai Landscape, executed the project.

At the park opening and blessing, Ke’eaumoku Kapu explained that in the early 1800s, King Kamehameha III worked here to plant and harvest kalo, the staple of the Hawaiian diet. This site, known as the King’s Kalo Patch, flourished for decades.

Three new kalo patches are featured in the park along with hala trees at the park entrance, a koai’a tree and native hedges and ground covers.

The north side of the property is bordered by a new rock wall built using the Hawaiian dry stack method, which means no mortar was used. Bike racks, benches and new pavers complete the project.

Students from the two schools will return in nine months to harvest the kalo in a community planned celebration. Kapu will maintain the patch during the growing season with help from local farmers.

“This will be an active park with on-going programing emphasizing Hawaiian culture,” LRF Executive Director Theo Morrison said. Lahaina Public Library will also play a part in the programming.