On August 24, 2019, nearly 200 Kaua‘i High School athletes spent their Saturday morning getting muddy and helping restore the 600-year-old Alakoko Fishpond.
They pulled out invasive mangrove seedlings, planted native species and cleared new planting areas. While caring for the fishpond, they also learned something about the history of the region.
They are the latest of hundreds more Kaua‘i residents and visitors, who come each month for community work days aimed at helping bring back to life the ancient pond and the adjacent Hulē‘ia River.
The work is a program of the non-profit Mālama Hulē‘a, whose goal is to remove some 70 acres of invasive mangrove from two miles of the Hulē‘ia River system on Kaua‘i.
The Alakoko Fishpond, also known as the Menehune Fishpond, was built in the late 1300s or early 1400s. It is one of Kaua‘iʻs oldest surviving archaeological features. A rock-faced wall separates the pond from the river.
Until last year, both the wall and much of the pond were densely overgrown with invasive red mangrove trees. Mangrove was introduced to the islands for erosion control nearly a century ago, but has now displaced hundreds of acres of native coastal lands. There are now community efforts to clear mangrove from coastal areas on several Hawaiian islands.
In 2013, Mālama Hulē‘ia launched with a mission to remove the mangrove from the Hulē‘ia. Its first effort was to clear more than two acres of dense mangrove along Puali Stream, fronting Niumalu Park. The group moved last year to the fishpond. So far, half the pond margins have been cleared, and the cleared areas are being replanted in native coastal and wetland species.
The Kaua‘i High School athletes, members of the football, volleyball, bowling and other teams, along with some of their teachers and parents, planted the four native species that seem to be growing best along the pond shores. They are ‘ae‘ae, makaloa, ahu‘awa and ‘akulikuli.
Community Workdays are under the guidance of Mālama Hulē‘ia executive director Sara Bowen and operations manager Peleke Flores, along with several of the groupʻs board members and veteran volunteers. The workdays are held on the 4th Saturday of every month, 8 am – 12 noon. Lunch is provided. Check with firstname.lastname@example.org for other activities and dates.