DHHL Seeks to Fence Off Grove
With Molokai’s historic Kapuaiwa Coconut Grove suffering from disease and human pollution, the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands (DHHL) has reached out to the State Historical Preservation Division (SHPD) to ask for guidance in fencing off the property.
Residents have been voicing their concerns at recent community meetings, explaining that they used to be able to see straight through the grove to the ocean. Now overgrowth and trash have obscured the view, and they want to see the grove be protected from human intrusion.
“For me I feel our resources are there for everybody,” said resident Kauila Reyes at a May 21 community meeting. “But they don’t take care of it.”
While the DHHL is responsible for the grove, SHPD must determine where fencing can be placed on the historical property, said DHHL Molokai Acting Director Supervisor Halealoha Ayau.
The DHHL, which only has one maintenance worker on staff, is also seeking out a private company to clear the brush, fallen leaves and coconuts from the grove. While the grove is also suffering from a fungal disease and multiple pests discovered in December 2014, Ayau said they first want to clean the grove and keep out people who could potentially be injured from weakening, falling trees.
“[Cleaning it up] is only one level,” he said. “What are we gonna do about the trees? They’re diseased, they’re old, and they’re coming down. Do we bring them down to keep it safe? … We’re not there yet. The only part of that plan I know we’re at is we want to fence it off.”
Last Friday, SHPD administrator Dr. Alan Downer said through the DLNR communications office that “SHPD will be responding to Mr. Ayau, in his capacity as DHHL staff, by early next week at the latest,” though he did not comment on how long the guidance and authorization process would take.
Ayau said they’re willing to let community groups volunteer to with grove maintenance in the future, provided they sign proper permits. Residents said they hope the community will work together to respond to the grove’s problems.
“It’s an eyesore waiting to be cleaned,” said resident Pearl Souza. “… It’s part of our lineage to take care of it. In the olden days if said we need to do this, people showed up and did it.”
These actions would precede efforts that are being made to address several pests that are attacking the coconut trees and causing some to die. In the June 3 issue, the Dispatch reported the coconut mite, coconut scale, weevil, white flies and a possible fungus are to blame for the trees’ deteriorating health.
Having learned the impact that coconut mites can have on trees, Kalama`ula Homestead Association President Gayla Haliniak-Lloyd told concerned residents the mites eat away at young coconuts, making the leaves turn yellow and start falling away.
Darcy Oishi, entomologist at the Hawaii Dept. of Agriculture (DOA), told the Dispatch earlier this month that while the mite does create an environment that fosters the growth of other harmful species, “it won’t necessarily kill the tree.” What is more concerning, however, is phytophthora, a fungal disease that creates rot within the trees and will eventually kill them. The length of time it takes for the fungus to kill a tree depends on multiple factors, including the water and nutrients the tree is receiving as well as the presence of pests, according to Oishi.
While the DOA doesn’t have staff on Molokai, Oishi said he does “intend to see staff going to Molokai more often” to monitor the grove.
While experts continue to investigate the pest problem and come up with a plan to address the issue, Ayau said DHHL plans to move forward with fencing the area and begin cleanup of the grove as a first step.