Kaʻala Farm a modern kīpuka in the fire
The fire that began in the Lualualei Naval Reservation and burned 1200 acres in Waiʻanae, including the traditional hale pili classroom at the Kaʻala Farm and irrigation pipes, spared the loʻi kalo. The farm is a real kīpuka, a green oasis of life amidst the charred landscape.
The Honolulu Star Advertiser reported “Seeds planted for farm’s revival” (June 13, 2012):
Kaala Farm Cultural Learning Center sits like an oasis in upper Waianae Valley bordering the Waianae Forest Reserve after last week’s wildfire spared it from heavy destruction. Only a grass hale (left of the green taro patches) and adjoining area with a composting toilet building and lau hala grove were destroyed.
Oahu’s largest brush fire this year swept through Waianae and Lualualei valleys charring almost 1,200 acres, but leaving 100 acres near the Waianae Kai Forest Reserve mostly untouched — except for a nearly 3-decade-old, 30-foot Hawaiian grass hale.
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Enos estimated that it will cost more than $150,000 to replace the hale, built in the mid-1980s. But the real loss of a structure that has come to symbolize Hawaiian culture in a place used for teaching, cultural ceremonies and gatherings may be immeasurable.
The wildfire fire began June 4 at Radford Street and Kolekole Road on Naval Magazine Lualualei. It spread into the forest reserve. The Navy said Tuesday that it could not determine how the fire started.
PHOTO BY DAVID SMITH
As we have described before, places such as Kaʻala Farm are cultural and political kīpuka, oases in the lava flow that restore the life of the forest:
Enos described the area as being like “kipuka” — which he described as the area that is spared during a lava flow. “It’s like when the lava goes around an old forest area, sparing it. It’s a sanctuary because that’s where seeds come.
“We’ve become a kipuka — for us now is the time for regrowth and restoration — bringing people together, so the culture of the land survives.”
He said that it will take upward of $150,000 to rebuild the hale, which was styled after a canoe hale found in the City of Refuge in Kona.
Ohia logs will have to be cut and brought in from Hawaii island, Enos added.
However, he said the rebuilding of the hale will be used as a workshop for the Waianae community.
“We hope to use the opportunity to bring the community together. It is important to have a place of refuge to talk about the land, water and self-sufficiency.”
Kaala Farm was established as a Model Cities Waianae Rap Center in 1976, and organizers purchased the Waianae Valley land from the state. More than 4,000 students and 2,500 adults participate in its educational programs annually, according to its organizers.
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Anyone interested in making a donation to Kaala Farm — including financial and/or materials/supplies contributions, should contact Kaala Farm at 696-4954 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Donations are also being accepted via check at any First Hawaiian Bank location c/o “Friends of Kaala Farms Cultural Learning Center.”
There are still unanswered questions about the origin of the fire, the explosions that many Lualualei residents saw and heard during the fire, the disaster safety plan for ordnance accidents, or the slow fire response from the Navy. This also raises questions about what kinds of munitions are being stored in Lualualei and when and how the Navy will leave Lualualei. The naval magazine has been all but inactive when most of the munitions were moved to the West Loch branch near the Pearl Harbor Naval Station. Long ago, he navy tapped the source of Pūhāwai stream and diverted the water to the base, leaving ancient loʻi kalo dry. If those areas had been in cultivation, like at Kaʻala Farm, the fire would not have been able to spread into some of the areas where it did.
Around ten years ago, when the base was originally slated for possible closure (prior to 9/11 build up madness), a group of us led by Vince Dodge hiked in to inspect different sites. We hiked to the source of the Pūhāwai stream and saw the dry loʻi beds as well as the massive pipe that diverted millions of gallons of water from the natural stream flow. Since the naval base was underutilized even then, the water was spilling out of the overflow valve onto pavement. It was not even placed back into the stream a few yards away.
When we inspected the stream beds we saw that there were traces of water percolating up but not enough to flow. The dream then as now is to restore the sites to productivity.
But whose vision will drive the conversion of Lualualei valley from military to civilian use? Will it be the developers who wish to create industrial parks, subdivisions and highways in agricultural lands, including a new tunnel and road through Pōhākea pass? Will it be the Navy planners who have gotten into the real estate business by “disposing” of excess military land on the real estate market through sale or lease for profit? Or will it be the residents and traditional practitioners of Waiʻanae who wish to restore ancient wisdom of land stewardship and sustainable practices? That chapter is yet to be written.