Author Archives: Jennifer Smith

Buying Local, Eating Healthy

Wednesday, August 13th, 2008

Program offers fresh produce with easy to consume instructions.

By Jennifer Smith

Eating healthy on Molokai just became a bit easier, as Pu`u O Hoku Ranch now offers local produce boxes. The fruit and veggie sales are part of an ongoing Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) project at the Ranch.

“It’s a huge opportunity,” said Debbie Thiel, farm intern. She sees the farm and ranch work at Pu`u O Hoku as part of “a big picture of total sustainability” for the island. “It needs to happen.”

While the Ranch has grown vegetables for several years, and sold occasionally at the Saturday farmers’ market in town, the new CSA boxes offer residents the opportunity to buy produce weekly in bulk.

A Fertile Land
Pu`u O Hoku uses farming techniques from the biodynamics school of thought. “It goes beyond the concept of organic,” said Guido Frosini, farm intern. The chemical-free farming also takes into account forces of nature such as moon cycles, and rotates planting fields to ensure sustainability of the land.

“Molokai is very fertile, it can produce a tremendous amount of food,” Frosini said, adding that Pu`u O Hoku also offers organic beef. He said at nearly 14,000 acres, the area contains “a full spectrum of food,” which includes a farm, ranch, hunting, and fishing grounds.

However, one of the biggest cash crops for the ranch is also one that is not widely distributed on Molokai. The nearly 13 different varieties of awa plants grown at Pu`u O Hoku are in high demand with kawa bar owners on the surrounding islands.

Looking to the Future
According to Frosini, work is also currently underway to create a certified kitchen at Pu`u O Hoku. This would allow for the creation of value-added products on site, such as making poi out of taro.

Hoping to one day establish farm tours and demonstrations, he said, “We want to set up a place where anybody can come and learn, especially local people.”

For now, however, people can learn from the delicious recipes provided with purchased produce boxes. Farm intern and culinary school graduate Lamertia Gorsich said most people don’t eat a lot of vegetables because they don’t know how to cook them.

She said the recipes provided teach people “how to use produce” and “how to improve their health.” The eventual goal, she said, is that people will know “how to create a wonderful dish out of something they’ve grown.”

Veggies for Sale
Most of the produce at Pu`u O Hoku averages $3 a pound. A box containing a variety of vegetables is $25.

“The idea is to provide local produce at a price that people can afford,” Gorsich said, explaining that the prices are comparable if not lower than other organic vendors around the islands.

The CSA program could service between 25-30 families a week. As of last week, the program had 10 weekly customers.

For more information, or to order a CSA box call 558-8167. 

The Founders

In acknowledging the exciting developments at Pu`u O Hoku’s farm, it is important to recognize all of those who came before, enabling the CSA program to exist.

A big mahalo to Jack Spruance and Jamie Ronzello who helped to set the foundation for future farmers Rachel, Brenda, Maggie, Megan, Vince, Julia, Noah, and Willa to create a healthy and thriving garden.

Also a big mahalo to the fence line crew: Chuck Miller, Shannon Kalipi, Jim Henderson, Anthony Welch, and George Coelho.

Caring for the Friendly Isle’s Furry Friends

Monday, August 11th, 2008

Humane Society looks for long-term solutions.

The new Molokai Humane Society veterinary office assistant Tessa Reich is doing her best to serve the island's pets.





By Jennifer Smith

Having stepped up last year by providing a semi-permanent home to care for the island’s animals, the Molokai Humane Society (MHS) is now looking to create a long-term plan to continue providing care on the island. A meeting held last week Thursday introduced the MHS board members to their new veterinary office assistant, and allowed time to discuss the finalization of a strategic plan.

“We are trying to figure out how best to serve the community,” said Koki Foster, MHS board member.

The MHS members all agreed on the need to take into consideration what people need for their animals, as well as what they can afford to pay.

“We want to let people know not to despair when their pets are in need,” said Sister Ardis, MHS board president.

A New Job for a Familiar Face
After nearly a decade of volunteering at the MHS, Tessa Reich is now officially the veterinary office manager. This is the first paid staff position for the organization on Molokai.

Before Reich, the organization depended solely on the generous support of board members and community volunteers.

The state is providing the funds for the former Molokai Ranch manager to work 520 hours for the MHS. Through the dislocated worker fund she will spend about 40 hours a week setting appointments, performing general office work, and assisting visiting veterinarians.

Reich is also completing vet training classes. Having passed her first two tests, she said she is really excited to be learning more about the tasks she has been performing as a volunteer for years.

The MHS is not budgeted to pay for a staff person, but board members are hoping to reapply to the county next year to amend the budget. The state funds will run out in mid-November, but Foster said the MHS is hopeful that they will be able to hire Reich in the future.

Visiting Vets

Several veterinarians have visited the island through the years, but the most frequent service provider recently has been Dr. Eileen Naaman.

About two and a half years ago, Dr. Eileen read an article in a local newspaper that the island’s vet, Dr. Rodriguez, had passed away. At that point, she had been established in her field for a number of years, and decided to inquire about what she could do for Molokai’s animals.

Since then, she has attempted to visit the island as often as her busy schedule allows.

On a typical visit she usually sees a significant number of walk-ins, primarily for spays and neuters, but occasionally for emergencies. Pet owners are encouraged to make an appointment before coming to the MHS office, which is located at 460 Maunaloa highway, about a quarter mile before the airport.

By the Numbers

While Dr. Eileen said she “would like money not to be connected to medical,” there is a $30 charge for a pet examination. However, this rate is considered reasonable since the average cost for an exam on Maui is $45, not including expensive travel arrangements.

The MHS does not make any profit for services provided, and receives most of its funds to continue through donations and money received from the county.

Despite a bare bones budget of $40,000 a year, the dedication of countless volunteers ensures that proper care is provided for the island’s animals. “Were it not for volunteers it wouldn’t work,” said Karen Holt, Molokai resident and pet-owner.

In June, a report done over a five-month span showed over 500 clients served. This number includes hundreds of sterilized cats and dogs, 480 messages received, and 98 cats and dogs serviced at a sponsored free immunization clinic.

“We are here for the animals,” said Sister Ardis.

A Tough Job
Members of the MHS have also expressed a concern for a man that they refer to as compassionate and caring, but who does one of the toughest jobs on the island.

Richard Maikui works for the county’s animal control and rounds up stray animals on the island.

The members said most people don’t know that the majority of these animals must be euthanized because they are never retrieved or placed in homes.

“We don’t have a good system right now,” said Foster, explaining that families will often abandon unwanted animals. She said it is better to give the animals to animal control instead of just leaving them to fend for themselves.

Unfortunately, even animal control is limited in its abilities to deal with the overabundance of animals on the island. There is currently no animal shelter, only a holding area with limited access.

Right now there are many adoptable animals, and no formal adoption facility.

To report a lost or found animal contact the Molokai Police Department at 553-5355 and ask for animal control.

Upcoming Vet Visits

The MHS has veterinarians scheduled to be on Molokai until the first week in October, with a vet from New York arriving mid-August and staying for nearly a month, and Dr. Sterling returning from Sept. 18 to Oct. 8.

Sister Ardis said a lot of volunteers have already signed up to help the MHS, but the organization is always looking for more, and it provides training programs to help orient new volunteers.

For appointments or to volunteer call the MHS at 558-0000 and leave a message.

Acknowledging Previous Benefactors
While the MHS is currently making huge strides toward solidifying its presence on the island, the board members wanted to recognize the many caring residents who came before them, many of whom made personal sacrifices donating time, services, and occasionally their homes to provide care for the island’s animals.

Without the help of former volunteers and board members such as Julie Lopez, Jeanette Kahalehoi, Julie Cuello, Janice Dela Cruz, Terri Warros, Viola Wichman, and so many more that unfortunately cannot all be listed, the organization would not have the home it has today.

Uncle Merv’s Travels

Tuesday, August 5th, 2008

Local ambassador shares highlights of visit to the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands.

By Jennifer Smith

Molokai’s own Uncle Mervin Dudoit recently shared the honor of being one of only three individuals from the state of Hawaii to share their local expertise with researchers during a trip to the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands (NWHI).

“I’m really glad I went,” Uncle Merv said. “It’s a once in a lifetime experience.” While only allowed to bring back memories and pictures from his travels, he said he wants to share the experience with others to help explain the importance of protecting Molokai.

Preparing for the Journey
Uncle Merv joined participants from the Cook Islands, Fiji, Samoa, Australia, Palau, and the Marshall Islands on his 12 day expedition. 

In order to prepare for their visits to Nihoa, Mokumanamana, and the French Frigate Shoals, the group spent a few days on Oahu before heading out on one of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) 224 ft. ships.

A hike to the Makapu`u Lighthouse was meant to prepare them to walk on Nihoa, as well as allow them to collect salt for ho`okupu.

The group then made a visit to the Honolulu Aquarium and Hanauma Bay to learn about the fish they might encounter and receive a snorkeling lesson. A well-known diver, Uncle Merv didn’t tell the instructor he had been diving for nearly 50 years.

The participants were also treated to new clothes and gear that had been prepared by freezing them for 48 hours, to ensure no insects traveled with them to the islands.

Touring the Islands
Ready and raring to go, the travelers left at sunup arriving in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands the next morning.

Waking up in what appeared to be the middle of nowhere; Uncle Merv said he couldn’t believe how the Hawaiians found the islands with a canoe. “That place is so unreal.”

At their first stop on Nihoa, the group was careful to follow proper protocol with chants and ho`okupu. “We did everything in the right way,” Uncle Merv said. Having had rough waters for most of the trip, he said when the group did the protocols “the ocean went mellow.”

Once on Nihoa the group took a hike. “I was the oldest guy on the ship (and) I made it right to the top,” Uncle Merv said.

The group also enjoyed some snorkeling. “I saw things I’ve never seen in my life,” Uncle Merv said. “The fan corral is huge (and) the ulua come up and look at you.”

Nearing the French Frigate Shoals “it’s like the island is moving,” he said. With thousands of birds flying through the sky, the island appears as if a can of white paint has been dumped over it.

Culture Clash
Uncle Merv came back with only one misgiving; he couldn’t taste the fish.

While “the scientists were happy they had Hawaiians on the boat,” he said they didn’t allow them to practice traditional fishing methods. When asked to tell the difference in the fish, he responded, “If we can’t eat the fish, we can’t tell the difference.” He said it is part of the Hawaiian culture to fish.

To test the fish the scientist currently take only small samples from the fish before letting them go on their way. But according to Uncle Merv this method can tell very little about the overall health of the fish.

He also expressed a concern with not seeing any moi, aholehole, mullet, or eel. “I think a lot of it has to do with fresh water,” he said explaining that the islands provide very little fresh water run off.

Sharing His Mana`o
While Uncle Merv said he does not enjoy public speaking, he did give a presentation to his fellow travelers about the fishponds on Molokai. A seasoned fisherman, he has spent the last four years volunteering his time to help caretake Ali`i fishpond for Ka Honua Momona.

After watching others present about their homes, and learning about the issues facing the NWHI, he said he came back passionate about the need to teach the younger generations.

“We need to convince them to really take care of this place,” Uncle Merv said. Looking at the clear waters in the NWHI and the abundance of fish, “I kept thinking how over here can look.”

He said the biggest challenge will be changing the mentality of over-fishing. Admitting that he didn’t always take just what he needed, he now knows that in order to ensure future generations can fish; people will need to take care of the resources still available.

“You’ve got to think of the future,” Uncle Merv said. “I think on Molokai we really can” get these resources back.



Saving Water, Feeding Molokai

Monday, August 4th, 2008

Local couple utilizes efficient farming technique.

The Hills are breaking traditional farming convention with their greenhouse based crop productions.  




By Jennifer Smith

When most people think of farming they picture large tilled fields with crops slowly sprouting out of the ground. One Ho`olehua couple, however, is helping to redefine the old image of what it means to farm.

“It’s strictly hydroponic,” Ray Hill said, explaining his tomato planting operations. Utilizing a 34 ft. by 96 ft. greenhouse on their homestead, Ray and his wife Jackie are using soil-free methods that actually save water, and produce more crops per square foot than ground-based productions.

Bringing Success, and Lettuce to Molokai
After taking a class in 1994 on hydroponics at the University of Hawaii in Kona, Ray decided to explore using the new technique to grow crops on Molokai. It took several years of research, business planning, and applying for grants, but finally in 2004 the couple formed Koaniani Farms, which means “a place cooled by gentle breezes.”

With Ray handling the operations side of production, and Jackie working behind the scenes with the sales, the couple successfully sold romaine lettuce for two years.

“It was the most beautiful lettuce in the history of Molokai,” Jackie said with a proud smile on her face. It took about two years to become profitable, but the Hills eventually were selling out, with Molokai Ranch alone picking up 50 pounds of the lettuce twice a week.

Unfortunately, Ray’s on-and–off-again battle with cancer and a particularly hot summer for the crops saw the lettuce production end in 2006. But 2008 has been a good year for the Hills. With Ray back stronger than ever and a new crop of tomatoes they can raise year round, Koaniani Farms is looking to the future.

The Future is Bright
Ray’s new efforts will focus on two varieties of tomatoes. While the new crop is more labor intensive, he believes the taste and quantity produced will be worth it in the end. In a rough estimate, he calculated at full capacity the greenhouse plants could provide 2,600 tomatoes a week.
“This type of farming is very similar to organic,” Jackie said. According to Ray, because the hydroponic plants have to be given very fine man-made minerals that plants would normally absorb from the ground, they are not allowed to label the crops organic. He said they are the “same minerals in the water that the plants need and would otherwise get from the land.”

Ray said the benefits of hydroponic farming have far outweighed the challenges up to this point. “You don’t have any bugs, and you don’t have any weeds,” or at least those he has are “minimal and easy to control.” He also said “in a small space you can do a whole lot more,” and faster. From planting to first crop it takes about 65 days.

The operations are also significantly less expensive to run. With lettuce, the Hills were running water almost all day, every day, but their new crop only requires about 20 minutes three times a day. The bags containing the plants absorb the water and nutrients, and all run off is caught and runs back into a tank for recirculation.

The biggest challenge according to the Hills will be the shorter shelf life that tomatoes have.  However, Ray argued that the taste will be worth it. He said 90 percent of tomatoes in stores are bred specifically for color and shelf life, but he is growing his for the flavor.

Spreading Their Seeds
Ray takes a lot of pride in his work and has big plans for the future, and while he has thought of taking on help, he said he has yet to find the interest from people. “I would teach anybody.”

The Hills are especially interested in getting the younger generation of Hawaiians involved. “I would like to see the kids get involved,” Ray said.

With the ability to work in a shaded greenhouse, while producing more per square inch and with less hassling with weeds and bugs, the Hills believe hydroponic farming could be the future of farming.

The couple plans to sell their crops first on Molokai, and then to the surrounding islands. Jackie has spoken with several interested vendors. “They are asking me about the tomatoes already.”

To find out more about Koaniani Farms, or hydroponic farming call the Hills at 567-9407.

MHIS Gears Up for Landmark Anniversary

Monday, August 4th, 2008

Planning begins for 75th celebration.
By Jennifer Smith

Molokai High School (MHIS) alumni will soon have yet another reason to proudly celebrate their alma mater. With the 75th anniversary only six years away, the Alumni Association has already begun planning for the momentous occasion.

Unlike the annual luau that hosts every graduating year sharing the last digit of the current graduating class, all MHIS graduates are invited to attend the 75th Anniversary celebrations.

Several exciting plans are underway, and the planning committee is asking alumni to dig through their old boxes and share old pictures, articles, and annuals. They are requesting graduates to submit these memories for a special collection of 75 years of MHIS that will be available at the 2014 celebration.

The planning committee is also asking the Molokai community to begin spreading the word now. With travel prices on the rise, it is important that friends, family, and perhaps a favorite former MHIS faculty member can begin saving now to ensure they will make it to the event.

While the anniversary may seem ages away, planning an event of this magnitude will take a community effort, and the Alumni Association invites anyone interested in participating in the preparations to please call Melody Alcon at 553-3443.

Keep a look out for the alumni link on Molokai High School’s website at

Roughing the Channel

Wednesday, July 30th, 2008

Molokai paddler takes first at Ka`iwi Channel race.

Dynamic racing duo, cousins Ekolu and Dave Kalama came in with the fastest overall time in the 2008 QuicksilverEdition Paddleboard Race. This is their third consecutive win in the SUP team division.

By Jennifer Smith

While some refer to crossing the Ka`iwi Channel as a “joy ride,” others see it as one of the greatest physical challenges they will ever endure. However, almost all of the competitors in last Sunday’s QuiksilverEdition Paddleboard Race agreed that crossing the finish line on Oahu is an achievement that merits bragging rights.

“It’s considered the unofficial world championship race,” said Ekolu Kalama, Professional Stand Up Paddleboarder (SUP). Kalama and fellow Friendly Isle native Mele McPherson made local residents proud by representing Molokai in the 32-mile race.

“The Ka`iwi Channel is one of the roughest bodies of water in the ocean … which is what brings it prestige,” said Ekolu, who won first place overall with teammate and cousin Dave Kalama. The multiple variables of wind, waves, and currents multiply the difficulty of the race.

However, the risk seems to only add to the thrill for many competitors. Now in its 12th year, the race from Molokai’s Kaluakoi Beach to Oahu’s Koko Head continues to attract well-known watermen, conditioned athletes, and this year even a few daring local TV and radio personalities.

Former competitor and Race Director Mike Takahashi saw the race evolve from a little over 30 participants in its first year, to well over 150 competitors this year.

“It’s good to see in these slow economic times that people have their priorities straight, and add in some fun and recreation,” Takahashi said. However, he said not just anyone can participate in the event, as the treacherous conditions can present a challenge to even a seasoned paddler.

Participants compete in a variety of classes including unlimited and stock paddleboards, solo and relay stand-up paddling.

Nose to the Board
Well-known waterman Jamie Mitchell (Australia) did not disappoint Sunday when he claimed his seventh consecutive win in the overall paddleboarding division. The 31-year-old has turned heads across the globe dominating competitions in big-wave riding, stand-up paddle surfing, and tow-in surfing.

“I consider him the Lance Armstrong of paddleboard racing,” Ekolu said of Mitchell. “No one will ever break his records.”

With Mitchell (Australia) almost guaranteed his win in the paddleboarding division on Sunday, Takahashi said the interesting race was in seeing who would steal second place. Jackson English (Singapore) thrilled crowds by beating out the close competition to take the runner-up spot.

In the women's division, Kanesa Duncan (Hawaii) upset last year’s winner, Shakira Westdorp (Australia), by taking first. “Both women are looking forward to a rematch next year,” Takahashi said.

Standout Stand Up Paddleboarding
Perhaps one of the biggest changes to the QuiksilverEdition Ka`iwi Channel Paddleboard Race has been the recent addition of the C4 Waterman Stand Up Paddleboarding division. SUPers cross on specialized paddleboards and utilize a single-ended paddle (similar to a canoe paddle) to propel themselves.

While SUPing began with the Waikiki Beach Boys nearly half a century ago, it was only recently that the sport became re-popularized.

Many credit Dave Kalama and infamous big wave rider Laird Hamilton for re-introducing SUPing to the surfing world. The friends began taking paddles out in 1995 to enjoy waves on small surf days.

“It’s not surprising at all” to see the rapid growth of the sport, Dave said, explaining that it was not a matter of if it would catch on, but when. Seeing the list of SUP participants nearly double since last year, three-time relay team champions and cousins Ekolu and Dave Kalama expect the number to continue to grow.

Ekolu, who just returned from a European tour with his sponsor Starboard, achieved his goal of beating Mitchell across the finish line. While the champion paddleboarder received a 30-minute head start from the SUPers, he didn’t have the advantage of being part of a relay team or using a paddle.

“It is a joy ride for us,” Ekolu said. “You are hooting and hollering and giggling - just having a great time,” Dave added.

A clear crowd favorite, the `ohana duo came ready to claim their third consecutive victory. While both admit they haven’t trained specifically for the event, they have strong natural abilities and they regularly frequent the ocean.

Admiring Mitchell’s skill and consistent wins, Ekolu said he would like to create a legacy similar to Jamie’s in the SUP division.

Celebrity SUPings
Breaking ground in the Ka`iwe Channel race, well-known media personalities stood up to show the fun and adrenaline-filled side of SUPing. Four, four-person teams comprised of two celebrity paddlers, and two experienced watermen entered the race.

“This gives us an excuse to be at the beach,” said Lanai Boy (I-94 FM). “I’m trying to have as much fun as I can.” Lanai, who trained about six months in advance for the event, was joined in the race by teammate and experienced waterman Brian Keaulana.

“I’ve always wanted to do the crossing,” said Dan Meisenzahl (KITV4 morning news). He had only SUPed maybe four or five times before the race, but said, “I hope this is the first of many” trips across the Channel. Dan was accompanied by watermen Russ Keaulana and Ikaika Kalama.

The well-known Keaulana brothers each escorted a celebrity team across the Channel.

Having trained with the new SUPers, Brian Keaulana said the experience “takes away their fear” of sharks, and of the elements.

The Surf Rescue Pioneer hoped for strong winds and big waves. “I’m happy it’s treacherous,” he said, explaining that such conditions can help the boarders to get across the Channel faster.

A Winning Attitude
“The race ran very smoothly,” Takahashi said. “It was an exciting, nice beautiful day in Honolulu,” he said in describing a crowded, but favorable welcome on Oahu.

“I am always impressed by the spirit of the competitors,” Takahashi said. Despite grueling water conditions that would make many want to jump into a support team boat, “everybody soldiers on … it brings me chicken skin every time.”

Fishing for the Future

Wednesday, July 30th, 2008

A series of articles on the island’s fishponds.

Uncle Leimana teaches local keiki about marine life at Kahinapohaku. Photo by Petra Wegmann.

By Jennifer Smith

For centuries, ancient Hawaiians looked to loko i`a, fishponds, for nourishment and livelihood; today, groups throughout the islands are turning to past knowledge in the hopes of reviving this rich cultural resource.

Molokai alone hosts over 60 fishponds, which are amongst Hawaii’s greatest engineering achievements. The semi-circular walls of the ponds are meant to keep fish in, while allowing seawater to circulate.

Unfortunately a lack of fresh water, an abundance of invasive mangrove and sea life, sedimentation from eroding uplands, and a lack community involvement have caused Molokai’s fishponds to fall into a state of disrepair.

Luckily, dedicated konohiki also known as caretakers, and volunteers throughout the Friendly Isle believe in the future of the fishponds and continue to put in the time and hard work to revive what was once one of the island’s most thriving resources.

Today’s konohiki are working to do more than repair walls. The restoration effort involves such things as educating the island’s youth, creating culture-based experiences, supporting responsible tourism, and promoting sustainability.

While the ponds may never produce the abundance of fish they once did, community support is redefining Molokai’s loko i`a as epicenters for education, culture, and fellowship.

An ongoing series of stories in The Dispatch will re-introduce some of the island’s caretakers, and provide updates on the future of fishponds on Molokai.

Hina’s Rock
While not the biggest fishpond on the island, Kahinapohaku is certainly one of the most visible. The four-acre fishpond is located at the 19-and-a-half mile marker on the East End of Molokai. Most drivers could recognize the pond from the highway by its outrigger canoe, surrounding coconut shacks, and breathtaking view of Maui.

Literally translated, Kahinapohaku means Hina’s Rock; in Hawaiian culture Hina is regarded as the mother of Molokai. But caretaker Leimana Raymond Naki said the fishpond has a deeper physical and spiritual meaning.

“It is a place where the rocks support each other,” under the water and above the water, Naki said.

And if anyone would know the true meaning of Kahinapohaku it would be Naki, who has been involved with the fishpond for nearly a decade, including the last three years which he has dedicated to living there full-time. According to Naki, he and his `ohana gave up the comforts of electricity and running water to care-take the area and ensure its revitalization.

A Mighty Task

Naki said revitalization and restoration are understatements to describe what needs to be done for the fishpond, explaining that it is not just a “project.”

“By having Kahinapohaku it gives pride in our culture,” he said. “Our ancestors, our enemies, our neighbors ate from here.”

However, today Naki said the fishpond is hurting. Contrary to what some may think, the Naki `ohana does not fish from Kahinapohaku. “Right now no one should be taking fish from the pond.”

Kahinapohaku’s broken walls have prevented her from healing and replenishing the fish communities, according to Naki.

“When the walls go up, the fish goes in,” he said. And it is with this belief that he continues trying to find the means to get the walls back up.

It would take several months for a dedicated group of hard workers to get the wall back up, Naki said. He is looking for grants that would allow him to pay workers to come to the pond, but continues to thank the efforts of local volunteers.

“You need the community support to take care of a fishpond this big,” he said. “For the past 10 years the community has come time and time again … my heart goes to those who come and work.”

Fishponds and Island Youth
While getting the walls back up is Plan A for Naki, he has also worked very hard to support the pond and his culture through Plan B: education. He regularly holds workshops at Kahinapohaku for local children, clubs, and the occasional island visitors.

“Education is the key,” Naki said. He provides workshops on everything from traditional ways of laying net, to hula, music, and mo`olelo.

While his services are open to anyone on the island, the kids keep him going. “They give me the strength,” he said.

And for the past two and a half years Naki has also enjoyed the help of a dedicated German transplant, Petra Gabriela Wegmann.

While attending a workshop in Munich given by Maori and Hawaiian women, Wegmann was told by one of the lecturers, “It is time for you to come home to Hawaii.” A few years later she found herself regularly commuting back and forth, and today she said she knows more Hawaiian songs than German.

Helping Naki to run workshops, and teach the importance of revitalizing Kahinapohaku Wegmann said, “I see the purpose of this place.” She said her friend and mentor’s purpose is not to get paid and then do his work; his purpose is to perpetuate the culture.

Feeling passionate about the fishponds ability to educate children in ways that traditional classrooms cannot, the teaching duo encourages teachers to bring their students to the pond.

"My classroom is round and it is an open space, they are not confined here," Naki said. “Some children don't belong in a box, in the classroom."

Having never seen kids “so happy,” Wegmann said many don’t want to leave at the end of the day. “They can’t believe it’s really a school class.”

This is perhaps why youth groups continue to visit Kahinapohaku to learn. In June, several groups including Ho`olana from Kamehameha Schools, Summer Pals, Keiki Steps, Te Ihi Connections performers, and Alu Like attended workshops about traditional fishing techniques and practices.

"It's good because it's about our culture," said Elano Naki, Leimana’s wife and the main coordinator for youth groups at the pond.

“I’m glad we have something like this for our kids,” Naki said. "This is our island, our resources."

However, even when Naki is teaching about the fish in the fishpond he said he makes sure to get the fish from elsewhere. “I fish outside because I respect the inside of this fishpond.”

Perpetuating Kahinapohaku
Naki found his way back to his cultural roots after enrolling his daughter in Punanaleo Hawaiian Immersion Preschool nearly 15 years ago. Born in territorial Hawaii, and having witnessed decades of change on Molokai, he is grateful for the opportunity to support the island’s cultural heritage.

"To me we struggled as a Hawaiian people," Naki said. He described how the kanaka maoli suffered a great loss when they became a state. He said they lost their hula, music, `olelo, and were forbidden to speak their native language.

Today Naki sees his continued hard work in the fishpond as a type of therapy, a reminder of his struggles as a youth. He said whether it is a fishpond or a taro patch, it is a way for the people to connect back to their culture.

"This is the path I needed to take to understand my people," he said, looking out at the cool water and warm stones of the breathtaking fishpond. “It is like starting over … it’s going to be hard, but we gonna’ make it.”

“There will be fish … fish to provide for community and our families,” Naki said. “What we have here is real … the resources are real.”

For more information on Kahinapohaku call 808-450-7834 and leave a message for Leimana.

Fishpond Protocol
In order to help malama Molokai’s fishponds it is important that visitors to the ponds follow proper protocol.

The following are some basic dos and don’ts for following protocol at Kahinapohaku.

• Many of Molokai’s fishponds have konohiki or caretakers: the ponds that are being actively cared for generally welcome volunteers and usually offer classes and other types of opportunities to get involved. Find out more from the pond’s caretaker.
• Pond work is always better with a group. School fields trips, church groups, non-profit and for-profit organizations usually welcome volunteer groups. Plan ahead of time when scheduling your visit.
• Be respectful: always ask to enter a pond area or to take pictures.
• It’s better to give than to take. Whether you’re Hawaiian or not, know your kuleana or responsibility toward fishponds.

• Take fish from fishponds; all of Molokai’s ponds are in a state of disrepair or rehabilitation. Instead, see how you can help repair a pond.
• Consider a pond public property. Just because a pond is in the ocean, doesn’t mean it’s public property.
• Walk on the wall, because you could hurt yourself, as well as damage the walls of the pond.
• Kayak in fishponds unless you are actively involved in its repair.
• Attempt to repair a pond unsupervised. There are more than sixty ponds on Molokai – if you’re interested in repairing a pond, get the help of a cultural specialist.

Another Great Ride

Tuesday, July 29th, 2008

Everyone wins at last meet in keiki surf competition.

Surfers from 3-year-olds to 12-year-olds had a blast in the water at the final meet of the 2008 Ko Molokai Keiki `O Ke Kai surf competition.  

By Jennifer Smith

Providing a summer of fun in the sun for the whole family, this year’s Ko Molokai Keiki `O Ke Kai three-meet surfing series went off without a hitch. After 19 years of watching local keiki catching waves, a packed Waialua Beach last Saturday illustrated the continued popularity of the event with residents from all over the island.

“It’s been great,” said Peter Angelsea, Ko Molokai Keiki `O Ke Kai competition director. He said a solid participation from 69 keiki this year and favorable conditions helped to make the event a success. 

“The neat thing is that everyone pitches in,” Angelsea said. Parents, volunteers, local businesses, and even some generous members of the surf industry contribute to the event. “We can’t do it without them.”

While initially donations were few and far between, several people stepped up in the end to help shake the bushes and ensure that every participant received a prize after last Saturday’s final surf meet. The celebrations included an awards ceremony, potluck, and goodies for the keiki.

Angelsea and wife Minka Nelson have helped organize the event for the past eight years. Now with a one-year-old in tow, the demands of heading up the event are more challenging, but Angelsea said it is worth it. 

“It’s really satisfying to see it moving into its 20th year,” Angelsea said, explaining his appreciation for being able to support “the quintessential Hawaiian sport.”

He said next year will be a big deal, and he plans on taking full advantage of the year ahead to plan the event.

A Sad Farewell
Angelsea announced during last Saturday’s meet the sad loss of the owner of the property where the surf competition has been held for the last 19 years.

Robert Lindsey and his family have graciously allowed the organization to use the property, said Angelsea in an email. “We were all saddened to hear of his passing.”


Trash Talk

Tuesday, July 29th, 2008

County creates draft plan for waste management.

Representatives from the County of Maui spent last week listening to community concerns.

By Jennifer Smith

With only a finite amount of land to place a booming population’s ever-increasing waste, Maui County officials are seeking community input on ways to better manage the islands’ trash. Representatives from the County of Maui held a community meeting last Friday at the Mitchell Pauole Center to present a draft plan on solid waste management, and to hear from Molokai residents on issues pertaining to trash on the island.
“This is a plan, a plan so that we will have some sort of direction,” said Mike Victorino, Maui County Councilmember.

While the county is supposed to review the solid waste management plan every five years, the last plan was completed in 1994. Meanwhile, expected dates for when the county’s landfills will finally become full have crept closer.

At the current rate, Molokai’s Landfill is expected to reach capacity in 2015 and the Central Maui Landfill in 2026.

Possible Solutions
In order to help solve the county’s trash problems, the draft management plan makes several recommendations for elongating the landfills’ lifelines. Recommendations include doubling recycling efforts, enforcing mandatory collection services for garbage and recycling, employing waste-to-energy conversion technologies, and placing some of the current disposal locations on standby.

If Molokai’s landfill is put on standby, it would still be open and would still need all of its operating permits. But recycling efforts would need to double, and trash would be compacted and mostly shipped off-island.

If all the recommendations are adhered to, projections show the lifeline of the Central Maui Landfill could extend to 2042.

“The key is getting the first step,” Victorino said. The Councilmember is passionate about the need to increase recycling efforts and to look to alternative technologies for reducing waste.

“I’ve never wavered from recycling and the benefits of it,” he said. “It is something that all of us must embrace.”

Next Steps
After reviewing the community comments received during last week’s public hearings, the county will then send the 1,500-page document to the Department of Health and the Maui County Council for approval, before finalizing the plan.

The current plan has been one year in the making, and will still require a review of issues dealing with feasibility and implementation.

The county apologized for hosting the meeting on a Friday night, but said site availability and scheduling conflicts made the time unavoidable.

The Draft Integrated Solid Waste Management can be viewed online at, or at any Maui County Public Library. For questions call Hana Steel at 808-270-7847.



Firefighters Leave Kalaupapa

Saturday, July 12th, 2008

State removes airport’s only first responders.

 By Jennifer Smith

For the past year residents of Kalaupapa have rested a little easier knowing that first responders were manning their secluded airport. However, a recent change in federal regulations will leave the peninsula without firefighters.

“We are very, very disappointed that the airports division has eliminated firefighter services at the airport in Kalaupapa,” said Steven Prokop, National Parks Service (NPS) superintendent.

As of July 1 the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) no longer requires the presence of fire personnel at Class III airports, serving planes carrying less than 10 people.

Residents Respond
“I think it is important (to have firefighters) because right now we only have 26 patients left,” said Gloria Marks, Kalaupapa resident. She was off-island when she heard of the removal of the firefighters, and said she feels the services are needed.

“A lot of accidents happen at the airport,” Marks said. “By the time (NPS) reach down there, it is too late.”

Marks runs Damien Tours, the only tour provider in Kalaupapa. She said with the recent canonization of Father Damien the company is expecting an increase in visitors to the peninsula. “We are going to have a lot of people coming in, and we are going to need a lot of security, a lot of help.”

“If the fire station is there at the airport they can solve a lot of problems,” Marks said. “It is good for the people; they know they are on the safe side.”

Senator J. Kalani English commented that residents of Kalaupapa should not be alarmed, because the peninsula did not have firefighters previous to 2007 and he could not recall any airport incidences that required the assistance of emergency personnel. 

Firefighters at Work
Firefighters arrived in Kalaupapa in June 2007 as part of an FAA certificate requirement of Part 139. Crews from Molokai, Maui, and Lanai started from scratch, helping to maintain the area and provide services when needed.

“Working in Kalaupapa was probably the most satisfying job I’ve ever done,” said Emerson Makekau, Ho`olehua Airport Fire Captain. He worked in Kalaupapa throughout the past year, and said the firefighters were needed and appreciated.

The services were primarily limited to daytime operations on the airfield, with one firefighter coming in every three days. However, it was not unheard of for the fire personnel to volunteer after hours, according to Emerson.

Agency Response
“I like the fact that we have been able to support the airport operations and community down there,” said Marvin Moniz, Maui District Airport manager. He said while there have been staffing and costs issues, “overall I think community has been happy to have medical responders.”

Moniz said he has received calls from concerned residents wanting personnel down there to provide extra assistance in times of need. He said something may change at the executive level, but as of July 1 no firefighters are manning the Kalaupapa airport.

According to Moniz, Airport Operation and Maintenance employee Bob Florek will take over airport operations that may have previously been handled by the firefighters. He will have access to equipment, and receive certification in CPR.

NPS Not the Answer
“We are very concerned that the airport no longer has an onsite emergency response capability,” Prokop said. “Our main concern is for the traveling public.”

While NPS is currently working on hiring additional first aid and emergency medical and fire responders, the agency “does not have the expertise or staff to adequately respond to an incident at the airport,” Prokop said.

The peninsula is “fully staffed and serviced with a hospital with top medical care,” Sen. English said, adding that should there be a need, “Kalaupapa is small enough that the medical care can get there in time.”

However, according to Prokop, it would take at least an hour for a major medical emergency or fire to receive outside aid. The surrender of the certificate under Part 139 will also affect airports in Waimea on the Big Island and Hana on Maui, but the two locations both have emergency responders in close proximity to the airports.

Prokop said there have been several instances where firefighter services have been required at the Kalaupapa airport. Most recently, on May 14 an airplane with a flat tire made a hard landing. He said the firefighter assessed the situation, evaluated the passengers, and coordinated the removal of the passengers.

Fortunately no one was injured, but Prokop said it is this sort of situation where trained personnel are required. “It’s been an extremely positive experience at the airport (having firefighters),” he said. “The primary benefit is the health and safety of the traveling public.”

While he feels it is the responsibility of the state, Prokop said, “the NPS looks forward to working with the state airport division in finding a way to reinstate the firefighter position in Kalaupapa.”