Kahua Paʻa Mua Farm Assistant and Mentor to Embark on New Journey
Story and photo by Libby Leonard. On February 7, Jamiel Ventura, one of North Kohala’s MVPs of agriculture, will be leaving for Georgia to begin his longtime dream of serving in the United States Army. For the last five years, the 2017 Kohala High School graduate worked for the agriculture education nonprofit Kahua Paʻa Mua. He was not only a beloved farm assistant, but a trusted mentor for the Hoʻokahua Ai (HA) Youth Mentorship program, where he mentored students in sustainable crop production, animal care and maintenance. He also taught the sustainable methods of Natural Farming—something he also did for families in the nonprofit’s ʻOhana Agriculture Resilience Program. While he started as a mentee in the nonprofit’s HA program in high school, where he also ran cross country and was (and still is) a member of the International Karate League, he came to work on the farm through Kupu’s Conservation Leadership Development Program, who places their workers with onsite hosts. Kupu, which is one of Hawaiʻi’s largest nonprofits, provides service-learning and environmental stewardship opportunities to empower youth, and recently gave Ventura an award for his service. Ventura’s interest in agriculture started in middle school through a video game called Viva Piñata, where players plant crops in garden plots, but it was Kahua Paʻa Mua’s Executive Director David Fuertes and his teaching in the HA program that fully ignited his passion for farming. According to Fuertes, over the years Ventura has blossomed into a confident leader, who developed the ability to manage their community education farm. “He touched many lives, including those of our 26 OAR families,” Fuertes said. He added that, “The kids liked playing with him, the adults loved his work ethic, and he ALWAYS gave his time when asked.” In August, when Ventura was spotlighted on social media by Kupu, he told them: “I wouldn’t trade my time with Kupu for anything else, even if the past could be rewritten. It helped me grow into who I am now. This was in a sense my own ‘mission,’ not many are like it and I’m glad this one is mine!” He also added that in the time he had between then and leaving, his goal was to savor and fully embrace the remaining experience he had on the farm, with Fuertes – whom he affectionately calls Papa – the Fuertes ʻOhana and their friends, all of whom have become extended family for him over the years. Those who know him in the community will miss his gentleness, thoughtfulness, curiosity, care for the ʻāina, hard work and humor, but are extremely proud of him as he embarks on his next chapter.
Demolition of Māhukona Pavilion May Start Next Month
By Toni Withington. It has been almost three years since the 70-year-old pavilion at Māhukona Beach Park was condemned as dangerous and toxic, and the County Parks and Recreation Department (P&R) is about to spend the first dollars to get rid of it. At the regularly scheduled monthly meeting with Parks Deputy Director Michelle Hiraishi, members of the Save Māhukona Committee learned that the County has drafted a contract with an unnamed engineering firm to demolish the pavilion and remove soil around it that is contaminated with dieldrin, a dangerous pesticide. The contract is in the process of being signed by the firm and the County. Hiraishi predicted the work will start in February or March. Last July Maurice Messina, director of P&R, said $400,000 has been allotted for the cost of clearing the area, building a temporary platform over the pavilion site, and beginning the process of planning the new park facilities.“We need to get the park site cleaned up so the space can be used and seen,” Hiraishi told the committee. “We will start working on the plan for the new facilities, so we can open up community discussion of what will be in the park.” The planning is expected to take two years and can be started while the demolition is underway. Hiraishi was asked if the community could begin clearing the brush and kiawe trees from around the proposed site, since it has been determined that the new pavilion and restrooms will have to be located farther away from the ocean due to sea level rise. She suggested the committee could apply for Friends of the Park status with the department that would allow residents to help make changes, including clearing the land on designated workdays. The park sits on 15 acres of land, only a fraction of which has been used in the past. Whether the recreational platform is temporary or remains will be decided when the community planning takes place. Hiraishi apologized for the delay in organizing community planning input, saying it would start when the pandemic allows.
By Gail Byrne Baber. With over 1,000 signatures supporting the petition of the coastal preservation of Lamaloloa, community members are hopeful that a conservation sale can proceed, since the parcel fell out of escrow in December. Funding for a public purchase is still available. The leeward stretch of the North Kohala coast has the highest number of intact cultural and archeological sites in the state. Preservation of Lamaloloa will keep the cultural landscape whole, unmarred by development or a luxury home.
2022 Kohala Ag Initiative, Seed to Market: Building Food Security in Kohala
By Maya Parish. Kohala Food Hub, Kahua Paʻa Mua, and HIP Agriculture are teaming up on a 2022 agricultural initiative in North Kohala, with plans to continue into 2023 and beyond. The project, called “Seed to Market: Building Food Security in Kohala,” will include community educational workshops, fruit tree, starch crop, and herbal medicine crop plantings in backyards and at various larger sites in the region, and the launch of a North Kohala Based Multi-Farm CSA. The two primary goals of the project are to build food security in the region and to strengthen and support local agriculture to offer viable economic pathways for more community members. Regenerative agriculture techniques, such as Korean Natural Farming, syntropic farming and agroforestry will be used and shared with all interested community members, working together toward building a thriving food system that is both owned within the community and actively regenerating the land. The first free community workshop will be held on Saturday, February 19, at the Kohala Village Hub Barn from 10 a.m.–12 p.m. The workshop will be on dwarf coconuts, providing instruction on how to space trees, prepare the planting area, plant, water, maintain, control pests, harvest and sell any excess coconuts beyond your family’s needs through Kohala Food Hub. A coconut planting demo will take place on site for hands-on and visual learners. Free food and drink samples, live music by Kelly Hyde, and a coconut-themed lunch by donation will follow. The workshop has been approved by the County and all the County’s COVID protocols will be observed. The outdoor lawn just outside the Kohala Village Barn offers ample outdoor space to gather. Workshop attendees will have the opportunity to purchase dwarf coconut starts at a reduced rate, as the initiative will be covering 30-50 percent of the cost. The workshop will be live streamed on Zoom for anyone who would prefer to attend virtually, and it will also be filmed, edited and posted online as a living educational resource. Families, individuals, and other community organizations are invited to join in with this year-long project, work that will surely take many hands. Do you have space in your backyard for a fruit tree, two or more? Might you be interested in growing ʻawa or other high value medicinal crops? Want to put more starch crops in the ground for your family? Do you lease or own acreage you’d like to plant out an orchard on? Do you have excess produce, herbs or tree crops now that you might be interested in selling through Kohala Food Hub? We hope to collaborate with you! Subsequent free community workshops will cover the practical step-by-step process of planting and maintaining crops that tend to do well and have a reliable market in Kohala, such as kalo, ʻulu, ʻuala, citrus, bananas and more. A fruit tree grafting workshop will be hosted by Kahua Paʻa Mua at Starseed Ranch, along with ongoing hands-on agricultural mentorship of families and youth in the community as they build out vegetable gardens, aquaponics systems, and hog pens in their backyards. To RSVP for the Coconuts Workshop on February 19 at Kohala Village HUB, please email Erika@hipagriculture.org. To participate in the Seed to Market initiative as a potential planting site, whether you want to plant one tree or 100; to participate as a volunteer on planting days; or to learn more about selling your wares through Kohala Food Hub and/or participate in the North Kohala Multi-Farm CSA as a backyard grower or larger-scale farmer, please email firstname.lastname@example.org or call/text (808) 896-3179.
New Focus on Old Coast Guard Road
By Toni Withington. There are so many potholes in Old Coast Guard Road that soon they may all grow together into a smooth surface. But those who don’t want to wait are once again looking for solutions. Ever since the ʻUpolu Point Coast Guard LORAN Station closed its facilities in the 1990s, the federal government has been asking for either the County or State to take over ownership of the road. Then about a decade ago, Hawaiʻi County started shuffling papers with the Department of the Interior. Through three mayoral administrations, Bobby Command, who is now the County’s Deputy Managing Director, has tried to orchestrate the many nearby landowners and stakeholders into an agreement that would let the County finally take over the road. Meanwhile in Kohala, two committees that are part of the North Kohala Community Development Plan have been talking about solutions for a long time. Recently the Kohaha Community Access Group and the Parks, Water, Roads Group activated other agencies to join the discussion. Specifically, these are the Ala Kahakai National Historic Trail and the Na Ala Hele State Trail System. Both those agencies have a stake in improving the access down Old Coast Guard Road to the ocean. Na Ala Hele has a trailhead to a State-owned coastal path along the shore of Puakea Bay Ranch subdivision, and the Ala Kahakai will someday run along the ancient Ala Loa. The County’s 2% Open Space Program also has a stake in the area, since the 17.5 acres that were once part of the LORAN Station has been on the mayor’s annual priority list for purchase since 2018. “I’m all for finding some way to make this happen,” Bobby Command said in a recent email. “This whole area is so rich in ancient and modern history.” Also joining the effort is Nathan Eggen, the managing partner of Honoipu Hideaway LLC, the owner of the 17.5-acre parcel that includes the makai portion of the road and the parking lot at the trailhead. Eggen’s family, along with friends, bought the land from Parker Ranch four years ago and refurbished several of the former Coast Guard residences there. They also constructed and maintain a public trail along the shoreline. Last month the State Land Use Commission turned down their request for a determination that would have moved the Conservation District boundary from mauka of the residence to makai. In asking to put the residence in the Agricultural zone, Eggen said the family has no intention of building another residence. “We want to grow our own food. We want to be part of the community,” Eggen told the commission. Old Coast Guard Road was once called Honoipu Landing Road. Oxen used to haul unrefined sugar to a launching place atop Paliakamoa, where it was sent on trollies down cables attached to ships offshore. The road was also used by families to access the ocean for fishing, gathering, swimming, camping and enjoying the sunsets. Since ancient times, Honoipu has been used by canoe paddlers and boaters as the closest and safest place along the island’s west coast to begin the crossing of the Alanuihaha Channel to Maui. A monument in the parking area memorializes the first Puerto Rican immigrants to Hawaii Island, who landed at Honoipu in 1901. It was erected by their descendants in 2001 on the centennial of their arrival.
Kohala Real Estate Market – 2021 Review
By Beth Thoma Robinson R(B). Kohala Home Sales and Prices Break Records in 2021. The combination of pandemic-driven buying and historically low interest rates that increased the number of sales and pushed up home prices in Kohala and throughout Hawaiʻi in 2020 continued throughout 2021. For the first time, the numbers reflect not only more sales at higher price points driving the median price higher. This year we saw examples of individual homes being “flipped” for significant short term gains.To summarize: – 75 homes sold in 2020 in Kohala, compared with 65 homes in 2020. – The lowest price a home was listed in 2021 was $209,900 for a bank-owned “tear down.” It sold in a bidding war for $241,000. – The highest-price sale was $ 4,150,000 for almost-oceanfront two parcels in Niuliʻi totalling 43.89 acres with a small dwelling on one of them. – The median home sale price rose from $511,250 in 2019 to $577,000 in 2020 to $605,000 in 2021. – There are currently only 11 homes for sale in Kohala.Fewer Opportunities for Local First-Time Home Buyers. Only 14 homes sold below $500,000 in 2020, compared with 23 in 2021. In part this was because there were fewer homes for sale. Demand from both newcomers and first time buyers taking advantage of low interest rates also pushed home prices above where they were at the last peak. We are seeing record high prices for what should be the “affordable” homes in Kohala. Here is one specific example. A “fixer upper” house in Halaula that sold for $275,000 at the end of 2019 was renovated in 2020 and resold for $430,000. That same home sold again one year later for $599,000! Homes that sold between $500,000 and $1,000,000 had another record year as prices got pushed up. There were 40 sales in this range in 2021 versus 29 sales in 2020. In more than a decade of writing this annual real estate market report, this is the first time that homes in this price range were not mostly properties on acreage. Only seven homes on at least one acre sold for under $1 million.There were also 19 sales over $1 million, almost double the number from 2020. Seven of these were over $2 million, compared with only four in 2020 and one in 2019. Three of the sales over $2 million were in Puakea Bay Ranch. These continue to be mainly, although not entirely, malihini buyers, and the sellers also are either non-resident or returning to the mainland. Land Sales Increase Due to Lack of Homes for Sale. There were 27 sales of land in Kohala in 2021, up from 19 vacant lots sold in 2020. Most of these were individuals looking to build a home, given the lack of residential real estate for sale. The most affordable prices continue to be the $200,000 range for 10,000 sq ft lots in Hanaula Village. The gated subdivisions like Puuepa Ranch, Puakea Bay Ranch, and Ranch at Puakea all had lot sales in 2021, at prices similar to previous years. There were notable sales of large agriculturally zoned parcels as well. The Halawa parcels that had belonged to Inhabit Hawaii, where Vipassana Hawaii once had a special permit for a retreat center, have been sold again. The special permit has lapsed, meaning these parcels now have individual owners planning only residential and agricultural activities. The parcels owned by Parker Ranch on Hoʻea Road, a total of over 455 acres, also sold in 2021 and will continue to be used for agricultural purposes. In other good news, the 93 acres including the bay at Kapanaia and a portion of Kapalama Heiau was acquired by the Countyʻs PONC (open space) fund for $2.9 million. This accomplishment follows the priority of the North Kohala Community Development Plan for protecting important shorelines.Forecast for 2022 – More of the same. With inventory even lower than at this time a year ago, many qualified buyers losing out in bidding wars, and interest rates likely to remain below 4%, all forecasters expect 2021 to continue to be a seller’s market in real estate in general. Kohala will be no exception. That makes it a very difficult time for local buyers in need of housing. If you fall into this category and have not yet completed the Affordable Housing Survey, please go to the website HomesForKohala.com to do so. Documenting the need will assist in the search for longer term solutions for Kohala.
Kohala Reunion is Happening!
By Lynda Wallach. After having been postponed for two years because of COVID, the 2020 Kohala Reunion, now the 2022 Kohala Reunion, promises to be an event worth waiting for. This year’s theme is Kohala ʻĀina Haʻaheo: “Kohala, Land of the Proud.” The festivities will take place over the 2022 Fourth of July weekend, beginning Saturday morning and ending Monday afternoon, and will be filled with activities that will appeal to all ages. People with ties to Kohala come to the Kohala Reunions, not just from our local community, but from the mainland and from several of the other Hawaiian Islands. They come to reconnect with Kohala and with friends and family and old schoolmates. Already tents have been reserved for Kohala High School graduating classes from 1959, ‘60, ‘61, ‘63, ‘70, ‘72, ‘75 and ‘76. As in the past, the focus of the first day will be on Kohala’s past and will include talks and exhibits on the history of the community. There will be traditional Hawaiian games, such as konane, and a roping station so attendees can practice for Monday’s big competition. Students of Aunty Margaret Tablit would like to get together and perform songs in her memory. Sunday will be devoted to Kohala’s present. Activities for that day include ethnic cooking demonstrations and dancing demonstrations. If you ever wanted to learn Okinawan taiko drumming or Japanese Bon Dance, this will be your opportunity. Boyd Bond will also be teaching children (and adults) how to make and fly a kite. There will be a keiki section available Saturday and Sunday to keep the children entertained. The third day will be Kohala ʻOhana Day and will be centered around the children, teens and young adults who are the future of Kohala. After the Fourth of July Ceremony led by Joe Carvalho, most of the rest of day will be devoted to games and contests. This is the big competition, the time to get your ʻohana together, however you define ʻohana – your family, your graduating class, a sports team, a group of hunters, policemen, firemen, a hula hālau or just a group of friends – and match your strength and prowess against competing ʻohana. Some of the proposed contests are tugs-of-war and kickball. Also planned are a basketball-horse tournament and a roping contest. One of the highlights of the day will be the Kohala Cowboy Challenge. David Fuertes will be giving three untrained horses to three trainers one week prior to the event, along with the challenge requirements. The winner of the challenge will win all three horses. Each day will also feature a cooking contest (dried fish, smoked meat, homemade sausage) and a dessert contest (coconut milk dessert, guava dessert, sweet potato dessert.) You will be able to sample the food and vote for the one you like best. Applications to enter the cooking competitions will be sent out later in the year. There will also be tours each day of local sites so those returning to Kohala can see what is the same as they remember and what has changed. An event of this size with so many activities and potentially thousands of attendees over multiple days obviously requires a lot of planning and many volunteers. Help is still urgently needed to plan and oversee several of the activities. If you are interested in being a part of a memorable 2022 Kohala Reunion, please contact Kathy Matsuda at (808) 895-2025 or email@example.com. Also, be sure to check out and join the Kohala Reunion 2022 Facebook page for pictures of past reunions and news about the upcoming one.
Dear Editor, I believe I speak for many, if not all, war veterans when I say those firecrackers and mini-bombs that go off on New Year’s and July 4th (right in our own neighborhoods) conjure up memories we would rather not bring to mind, ever again. Those sounds also fill our companion animals with body-shaking fear. Isn’t 2022 time to change those war-like sounds to more celebratory sounds, such as bells, chimes, and meaningful music? New Year’s Eve and July 4th should be filled with sounds of peace we hope to remember, not sounds of war we wish to forget. Thank you, Dov Kadima
VIEWPOINT: $4.5 Million Needed for Kohala Pool Renovation
By Jeffrey Coakley. The Kohala Pool was built back in 1974, while Councilman Hisaoka was Kohala’s representative. The story – or rumor – goes that there was enough money for a pool and library. Since Waimea was colder than Kohala, Waimea got the modern library and Kohala got the swimming pool. The first senior lifeguard was Andy Oshita, who later moved to California and became a director of Parks and Recreation. Over the 25 years following Andy Oshita, Alphonso Mitchell and Ben Fisher served as senior guards, from around 1981–2006. Ben Fisher then transferred to Hāpuna Beach, and I took over from 2006–2017. From 2017–2020, Lisa Nahuina of the Halawa Thomas family became the senior guard. She then transferred and became the senior guard for Honokaʻa pool and her weekend guard, Spencer Coakley, took over and is the current senior guard. Over the pool’s history, from 1974 until the pandemic – which has curtailed many aquatic programs – the pool has provided numerous activities for the Kohala community of all ages. The Learn To Swim program; aerobic workouts for fitness; Novice, USA and High School swim teams; and lap swimming welcomed diverse community members. People also used the pool to rehab from spinal, neck or back injuries and knee-, hip- or shoulder-replacement surgeries. The pool was a great place for low-impact exercise for those with obesity, heart disease, stroke or diabetes. During the summer, the pool provided fishing classes by the DLNR for youths. As the senior guard, I conducted “Take only what is needed” spearfishing classes, utilizing cultural practices. There were also swim meets, drug-free activities by KCAD, Grad Nite and water polo. But above all, the Kohala pool provided a safe environment with staff trained in first aid, CPR and use of an AED. Something we don’t mention is that the staff was always on the lookout for anyone who is being bullied or abused in anyway. The staff also provided a safe babysitter service. Not really, but parents could drop their kids off at the pool with their lunch and they could spend the entire day going from pool to playground and back. It was cool, as we’re all family looking out for each other’s kids. However, after 48 years of service, the pool needs a complete renovation. Surrounding tree roots have clogged the pipes that transfer the water to the filters and back out to the pool. The pool pump is worn and beyond repair. There are five filters but only three are operable, and they are barely doing the job. The holding tank is rusted; we used quick drying cement to patch the leaks. Over the past 15 years or so, the staff did their best to keep the pool opened despite the drawbacks and lack of money. They did the best that they could to band-aid the problems, but now have run out of band-aids. Could the County just repair or buy a new pool pump until they get the money? That’s what they’ve been doing for the past decade of repairing the pool pump. Two years ago, Tim Richards was able to get $400,000 to redo the pump room, but then the pandemic hit, and the money went elsewhere. Frustrating, as I personally knew the pool couldn’t last much longer no matter how many band-aids we had. As much as I would like to just buy a new pump and keep the pool open so I could continue coaching the Kohala High swim team, the clogged piping would put too much strain on the pump and it would break down, money down the drain. So, what to do? As a community I would encourage everyone to write a letter telling Mayor Roth how important the pool is to you and the community. Not as a complaint, as this administration inherited the problem and didn’t create it. Writing a letter makes it more sincere – just a paragraph or two telling the mayor to make funding the Kohala pool a top priority. However, please do whatever works for you. Tim Richards is well aware of the problem, as I have talked to him over the years about the Kohala pool and we were almost able to at least fix the pump room that would have kept the pool opened. Maurice Messina, P&R Director, fully backs having the pool be a top funding priority. Writing to the mayor, who supports the pool renovation, would help to support the effort. He can be reached at: Mayor Mitch Roth, 25 Aupuni Street, Suite 2603, Hilo, Hawaii. 96720 On a side note: In a conversation with Maurice Messina, I offered a fundraising idea: Since the pool was not being used maybe we could fill it with donated tilapia fish? People could bring their kids to fish for free and only pay so much per pound for what they caught. He had a good laugh.
Hawaiʻi State House of Representatives Update From the Desk of District 7 Representative David Tarnas: JAN 2022
Aloha. Mahalo for giving me the opportunity to serve as your State Representative. The 2022 Hawaii State Legislative Session is scheduled from January 19 – May 5, 2022. I encourage you to keep informed about the bills and to submit testimony to legislative committees when bills are scheduled for hearings. By creating an account on www.capitol.hawaii.gov, you can choose your preferences for being notified when certain committees meet and when the Legislature acts on specific bills. As Chair of the House Committee on Water and Land, I will review all bills brought to our committee and select the ones to be scheduled for a hearing. Our committee’s responsibilities are very broad, and include any policy matter involving water, land, forests, watersheds, wildlife, the coastal zone, and marine issues. Our committee will work to continue the positive momentum from the 2021 session, which was recognized by the Governor and the Chairperson of the Department of Land & Natural Resources (DLNR) as the best year for ocean, water, and land legislation in decades. I am grateful to be working with a great team of legislators to accomplish this important work. Please contact the House District 7 office if you have any questions about bills, the legislative process or require assistance with State agencies. We’re here to help. For the 2022 session, Zoe Sims continues as my chief of staff. The HD7 team has two new session staff members, Scott Gifford and Tamara Goebbert. Scott is a political science graduate of Hawaii Pacific University and works as the Committee Clerk for the Water and Land Committee. He is also a member of the Hawai’i National Guard. Tamara is a UH Manoa journalism and political science graduate who handles all constituent services and communications. The Legislature will be working on many priority issues this session. This includes examining and revising the Administration’s $16.9 billion Executive Budget, which allocates funding and personnel for each department and program. Our committee is responsible for reviewing and recommending budget modifications for the DLNR, as well as the Office of Planning and Sustainable Development in the Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism. Among the financial decisions we must make is whether to accept the Governor’s request to deposit $1 billion into the State rainy day fund, which will be used in the event of a major decline in tax revenue or unforeseen emergency expenditures. The account’s current balance is $350 million. With so many other needs, such as addressing homelessness and providing crucial social services, we may decide to put less money into the rainy-day fund and use some of the money to pay for these essential social services. The State continues to face a challenge regarding unemployment insurance. During the pandemic, the state’s Department of Labor and Industrial Relations (DLIR) paid out $6.5 billion in State and federal funds to cover unemployment claims. To make these payments, we borrowed $800 million from the federal government. To reimburse the State Unemployment Trust Fund, the 2021 legislature appropriated $700 million in federal pandemic relief funds and $100 million in state funds. The current balance of the State Unemployment Trust Fund is $123 million. However, we should have a balance of $1.3 billion to cover a year’s worth of potential unemployment claims. Usually, the trust fund is funded only by employers’ unemployment insurance payments. To rely on businesses alone to pay over $1 billion in needed funds would be a significant burden on our businesses. The legislature will need to determine if we appropriate additional funds to the trust fund and if we modify the statute to adjust the unemployment trust fund formula to avoid a big tax increase to businesses.Other priorities the legislature will address in the 2022 session include the U.S. Navy’s fuel leakage into the Red Hill drinking water well and the resulting water contamination for thousands of people served by the Navy’s water system. The Honolulu Board of Water Supply has shut down the Red Hill shaft and two other adjacent drinking water wells, causing major interruptions in Oahu residents’ drinking water supply. In response to this crisis, the State House of Representatives sent a letter to the U.S. Defense Secretary urging the Navy to clean up the contaminated water supply and develop and implement a plan to remove the fuel and decommission the underground fuel storage tanks at Red Hill. The Hawaii Department of Health has issued a final decision and order directing the U.S. Navy to suspend operations and empty the underground fuel tanks at the Red Hill Bulk Fuel Storage Facility, maintain all environmental and monitoring controls, and immediately install drinking water treatment systems to purify the drinking water supplied to residents. To keep everyone informed, I will continue to send out my e-newsletter on a regular basis. If you haven’t already done so, please subscribe to my e-news at bitly.com/reptarnas-signup. If you have any questions or concerns, please call my office at 808-586-8510 or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. As we begin a new year, please stay safe and well. Let’s hope for the best in 2022!
County Council Update From the Desk of District 9 Councilmember Tim Richards: JAN 2022
Aloha! Once again, it is time for the monthly update from our office. 2022. 2021 is finally behind us. Looking towards 2022, we as a community, county, and state need to discuss and plan our future. Through the pandemic, there was a lot of rhetoric but not a great deal of substance to conversations. The challenges and problems that we discovered, if viewed as a potential opportunity, can help us figure out a direction. What we must embrace is that very little of what we do will be unanimous, but we can find a middle ground to go forward. Through the pandemic, a couple of challenges were highlighted. Some of the issues are: – Our economy was 40 percent reliant on the tourism industry. The pandemic showed us how vulnerable we are. – Ninety percent of our food is imported. Long have people discussed being food self-reliant, but to do so we must embrace agriculture – all agriculture – and to build the economy of agriculture and its industries. Currently, the food needs for the Big Island alone are approximately 1,000,000 pounds of food a day. That is the equivalent of 1,000 farmers delivering 1,000 pounds of food every day to the markets. We have a few farmers at this scale, but we need more. To develop more, we must make the lands that agriculture needs available. As well, we must have the value-added/processing capability available to make agricultural industries make sense. -Housing, let alone affordable housing, is almost unavailable. During the pandemic there was a huge influx of people moving into our county. With that influx and demand for housing, prices skyrocketed. The demand for “affordable housing” was high pre-pandemic and now is even more daunting. -Cost of Living. Emerging out of the pandemic, the cost of living is skyrocketing as inflation is running high, some reports of 7 percent plus. In 2020 we saw a 46 percent increase in inter-island shipping. Young Brothers was struggling, and though our Senate had worked on approving relief funds using federal relief money, this bill did not clear the House and PUC authorized the increase. (I had argued before the PUC that if they had to authorize an increase, they should leave agriculture commodities out of it to help our local economy. That did not happen.) With no housing and a poor economy, we have no strong revenue streams or economic generators, and our community will be impacted even further. A strong economy translates into jobs which translates into economic success for our people. – Tourism. Pre-pandemic, at any given time about one out of five people on the Big Island was a tourist. Almost overnight, 20 percent of our population disappeared. With all the shutdowns, we saw a quieter island community with minimal traffic and people. Though that part was enjoyable, there was severe economic impact. What it did how us though was perhaps with thoughtfulness, we could make some changes as far as management of visitors and their impacts and improve the overall experience for everyone. I could go on with other topics, but I believe this makes my point. The glaring question before us now is, “And then what?” Do we have the will to make the changes that we need to improve all our lives? I am from agriculture and inherently optimistic, so my short answer is yes. What are some of the potential solutions? – Economy: Retool the opportunity for jobs, thus controlling the cost of living. To start, we all need to actually embrace agriculture. Support public policy that supports not only the growing, but also the value-add and marketing of our local homegrown products. That value-added opportunities will create jobs, keeping those funds in our county and economy. Some of the high-tech value-added foods can create high-paying jobs. – In the energy world, support all aspects of potential renewable energy and use that additional capacity to generate hydrogen production as a renewable energy fuel source. We have enough potential on this island to generate enough hydrogen for export if we support it, all while being essentially carbon neutral. – Plan and actually manage tourism in our county. This will take a consortium of planners and the public to identify the wants and needs, as well as crafting a workable plan going forward. We were already seeing some of this type of work starting for visiting Waipio and Pololū Valleys, and some of the beach parks. Again, together we have to support the initiatives of planning through these challenges to get this done. Cost of living, housing, and food security start to be addressed by taking the steps to supporting our initiatives that support our economy. We collectively must seek a balance between the needs of the community with the needs of our environment, find the middle ground, and move forward together. It continues to be a great privilege to serve as your Councilman and I look forward to working toward solutions in 2022 and beyond.
Kohala Artists’ Cooperative
Story and photos by Tom Morse. Facing the highway across from the Kapa’au Post Office, it stands-out with its bright colors and unusual displays. Inside the cavernous interior, hundreds of art pieces by only Kohala artists are on display. Open from 12:00 noon to 5:00 p.m. every day, a steady stream of visitors and residents pull into the spacious parking lot. Sales are brisk. There are currently thirty-seven member artists ranging in age from ten to eighty-two. Each pays monthly dues to support the rent payment on the building. When a piece sells, the artist receives eighty percent of the proceeds, with the remainder going to perpetuate the co-op. All members volunteer to staff the facility during open hours. The current version has been a long time coming. In 1996 Bill Parks (woodworks), Catherine Morgan (prints and a collages) and Hap Tallman (wood benches and chairs) opened a store in downtown Hāwī that lasted about four years. Then there were Christmas shows where twenty-five artists displayed in the dining area at the Kohala Village Inn. The first show was called “Light Up Lukes”, Lukes being the name of the building for many years before it became The HUB. There were poetry readings, and John Wallace and The Bhutto Theater performed. In 2008 Catherine Morgan and Malia Welch rented the space above Kenji’s House in Kapa’au (in what is now a house above Gill’s Lanai). About ten artists displayed their creations. The Kenji Museum was created on the site. Ten artists initially showed their work in Kenji’s House. Four years later they had outgrown the old house gallery. Half of the group, led by Mary Sky Schoolcraft, formed a second co-operative called the Living Arts Gallery in the Old Domingo building in Hawi (now Dr. Berg’s office), which operated until 2010. In 2018 seven artists signed a lease for the old Bozos Garage building, the present site. Prior to COVID, art classes, performances, and private-party rentals of the site helped pay the rent and utilities. At the start of COVID, the facility closed for a couple of months. The Kohala Community Resource Center helped the group raise $5,000 to restart. Individual artists have at times, displayed their works for one month on one wall in the big room. The present Steering Committee includes Dirk Lummerschein, Brian Dugan, Mary Toscani, Catalina Cain, Catherine Morgan, and Isaiah Price.
Hoʻea Road Re-zoning Deferred
By Toni Withington. The County’s Leeward Planning Commission last month deferred a request for rezoning of a small triangular-shaped parcel at the entrance to Hāwī town. Dwayne Cravalho had applied for a change from agricultural use to commercial on the lot at the intersection of Hoʻea Road and Akoni Pule Highway immediately behind the “Welcome to Historic Kohala” sign. Cravalho asked for the zoning to install two food trucks, picnic tables, portable toilets and parking. Commissioners responded to the 22 testimonies of people opposed to the zoning. One person spoke in favor of the proposal. Commission Chair Michael Vitousek pointed out the several changes needed, considering the Planning Department’s requirement of a roadway-widening setback and moving of the driveway location. The deferral is open to the discretion of Cravalho, meaning it can be brought back to the commission later. However, Vitousek suggested “the community’s concerns need to be taken into consideration in the new site plan.” Contacted since the meeting, Daryn Arai, Cravalho’s representative, said a revised plan will be submitted addressing the concerns with the changes that are detailed below. The Planning Department staff reminded commissioners that the zoning does not limit the commercial uses to that described in the application once the zoning is in place, mentioning residences, retail stores and a gas station as examples. “The shape of the parcel and parking requirements would mean the amount of usable land would be low,” said planner Jeff Darrow. The triangular lot is 7,544 square feet. Concerns about the proposed food truck plan focused on the limited space for parking, the traffic problems at the intersection, the portable toilets and the owner’s stewardship of the land. “The place is an eyesore now. It is fenced and overgrown,” said Commissioner Faye Yates. “The parking, the porta-potties – don’t you care about the community?” Commissioner Mahina Paishon-Duarte asked if Cravalho has determined the maximum number of users who would be on the property at a given time. His representative Daryn Arai said they expected orders to be called in and picked up. She expressed concern that the portable toilets alone would attract more visitors to the site. The sole testifier in favor of the rezoning was Jeffrey Coakley who praised Cravalho’s business practices and welcomed new Kohala resident-owned businesses. Sixteen of the testifiers in opposition identified themselves as residents of or near Hoʻea Road. The recommendations of the Planning Department for approval included conditions for an additional future road-widening setback of 10 feet along Hoʻea Road as well as landscaped buffers on all sides of the lot to prevent customers from parking alongside Hoʻea Road or the highway. Another condition would require the driveway to the two-stall parking lot be moved as far from the intersection as feasible. Reached by email, Arai said he and Cravalho are “currently working on a revised site plan that would attempt to provide mitigating actions that we hope will address concerns raised in testimony and comments received by the Commission.” The changes include reducing the number of food trucks to one, adding more parking stalls, eliminating on-site dining, eliminating the portable toilets as confirmed by the Department of Health regulations, and moving the driveway as far north on Hoʻea Road as possible. Arai said he is not sure when the revised plan would be submitted and a new hearing scheduled, but he said Cravalho “wishes to be thoughtful and diligent about all of this and not simply rush.”
Roots Skatepark Update
By Richey Riggs. As we move into the new year and look toward the future, it is important for us to say thank you to the many hands and hearts that put in the work and made contributions to get us to where we are today. Mahalo to our volunteer builders and masonry craftsmen, notably led by Brian Sandlin and his dedicated crew from Abstract Concrete. His donation of time and resources have made the park the pride of Kohala. It has been one year since completing the expansion of Roots Skatepark and many improvements have been made ever since then. Aesthetic details and a tidy surrounding are key to becoming a welcoming facility. We do our best to enhance the landscape with lush vegetation and a groomed lawn. Big thanks go to the hardworking people at Aikane Nursery for their selfless contribution at keeping the grass smooth and neat. We invite one and all to come enjoy the skatepark with family and friends. With the new and expanded terrain there is plenty of room to work on your beginner skills or hone your advanced technique. You will appreciate the warm atmosphere as the skateboard community in Kohala is inclusive and encouraging to all, new faces and the familiar regulars. With that said, we would like to announce that we have plans for future expansion and improvements to the facility: more terrain and additional safety features. It’s all very exciting to plan more construction and look ahead to what’s next. We couldn’t have made the current expansion possible without the district funding appropriated by former Councilwoman Margaret Wille and the tireless years of volunteer fundraising by our community skatepark youth advocates. Mahalo nui!For information and a link to donate, please go to rootsskatepark.org or email at email@example.com
Area Nature School A Breath of Fresh Air for Kohala Youth
By Libby Leonard. Back in 2020, during a time of difficult remote learning at the beginning of the pandemic, Devin Longfellow wanted to figure out what she could do to help children and their parents navigate the challenges of isolation and global anxiety. It would be after a desperate father said that he wished the schools would provide outside learning where his kids could breathe fresh air, that she would become electrified with the idea of creating an outdoor school that would give a safe space for area kids to explore and feel a little more freedom. That summer, with what seemed like effortless community support, she opened the Give & Grow Discovery School on a farm in Niuliʻi. It has a magical outdoor program that provides a safe social space for children to play and learn about themselves through nature-based activities, where the priorities are empathy, free expression, altruism and nature immersion. Starting off with only eight children from friends who were parents like herself, two years later – due mostly to word-of-mouth – this special program has grown to a vibrant community of over 50 parents, four teachers, 15 guest teachers, 20 volunteers, and over 60 children. The children meet weekly and are involved in activities like planting starts in the garden, scavenger hunts, storytelling, stream adventures, and mindfulness circles. Guest teachers teach them cultural and agriculture activities like seed saving, working in loʻi patches and worm composting; and physical activities like yoga and martial arts. The kids also give back to the community through their own “Giving Garden,” which has supplied over 100 pounds of food to families and kūpuna in need. According to Longfellow, this philosophy feeds their mission, as she teaches the kids that community service or “giving” is one of the most powerful forces in the Universe. While they are currently capping the number of students due to COVID, Longfellow, who is the lead teacher, offers a “pay what you can” tuition system in order to make things accessible to all families. She has also been holding various fundraisers and applying for grants to keep making that happen. This past holiday season, she held one fundraiser at the art co-op, selling gifts the kids made; had a bake-sale at the farmer’s market; and sold t-shirts at Kohala Grown. She says the North Kohala Community Resource Center, which is their fiscal sponsor, has been instrumental in their success, helping with certain grants that have helped them thrive and expand. If you’d like to donate, please visit www.northkohala.org/current-project-summaries and scroll to Give & Grow Discovery School.
Local Legend Wins Two Film Awards
By Laurel Adler. Hāwī resident Kealoha Sugiyama has been recognized with two international movie awards as the star of the award-winning film, “Paradise Unfound.” Drawing from his own memories of growing up in Hawaiʻi, Sugiyama gives his view of the tragic history of the sovereign Hawaiian Kingdom being overthrown by the United States, resulting in its people’s loss of their land and heritage. The issue of sovereignty and lost land is still controversial today. On August 31, the film was awarded Best Documentary from both the Hollywood Dreams film festival and Italy’s international X World Short Film Festival. The movie premiered in Las Vegas and was broadcast on a Southern California television channel reaching over 10 million viewers. The movie has finally returned to its birthplace. On November 14, Paradise premiered on the Big Island, with screening space provide by Unity of Kona. After watching the film, the audience had the opportunity to ask questions of the people involved in the making of the film. Laurel Adler, the director of Paradise, then presented Sugiyama his two awards. Awards were also presented to Jim Carey, who also appeared in the film, and to Cathy Gilham, production assistant and second camera operator. Sugiyama was a high school graduate of Kamehameha Schools for Boys, later studying at City College of San Francisco. A long time Hawaiian Airlines employee, he is now devoting his time to local endeavors, such as performing traditional Hawaiian blessings.
Saint Augustine Community Meal Update
By Lani Bowman. For over 15 years, St. Augustine’s Episcopal Church has provided monthly community meals for our Kohala ‘ohana. These events offered opportunities to gather, enjoy good conversation, and share a meal with our neighbors. After the onset of COVID, in-person community meals were no longer viable at a time when our community needed help more than ever. The high number of layoffs in the resort industry and climbing unemployment rates prompted St. Augustine’s to recognize an increased need for prepared meals. In response, we developed a drive-through format that would allow us to provide meals safely. Meals are prepared in a certified kitchen and trained volunteers dish up and distribute the meals at St. Augustine’s Church. Based on available funding and volunteer labor, we decided to offer two meals per month. We are grateful for assistance from more than eight community organizations, which provided volunteers to dish and distribute meals. We applied for and received CARES funds through the North Kohala Community Resource Center for the last quarter of 2020. At our first drive-through event, we provided 200 meals. As need increased, we ramped up to between 400 to 600 meals by the end of 2020. By the end of 2020, we had provided 3,175 meals. In 2021, we secured a local grant through the Kohala Center that was designed to assist local families, farmers, and food producers. This grant, combined with funds from St. Augustine’s and assistance from local organizations, allowed us to continue to provide two drive-through meals each month in 2021. As we continued to assess community needs last year, we added 50 meals that were delivered twice a month to senior housing plus another 80 meals our volunteers delivered twice a month to people who were unable to attend our drive-through event. At most of our events, we were also able to provide produce we purchased from local farmers, as well as donated fruit. St. Augustine’s provided a total of 8,960 meals in 2021, even though we were closed for over a month during the Delta COVID surge. St. Augustine’s would like to continue this very important outreach for our community. However, additional funding is needed to maintain the number of meals we are currently providing. This is especially important as Omicron continues to spread. We are reaching out for kokua from community members, businesses, and organizations to continue funding this effort to prepare and distribute meals safely. St. Augustine’s has budgeted funds to help feed our community, and we’re inviting organizations and individuals to partner with us in this mission. Any amount would be appreciated, and families or businesses could pool resources to become a meal sponsor. If you would like to help sponsor a meal, please contact Vicar Jennifer Masada or Bishop’s Warden John Sakai for more information. Our email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
Kohala Kupuna Receive Blankets of Aloha
By Kai Gacayan. Blanket deliveries were made before Christmas day to bring holiday cheer and warmth to those at the Kohala Hospital long term care facility. Nearly 100 blankets were donated by the staff of Hāmākua-Kohala Health; a quarter of those were specially delivered to the Kupuna being cared for at the Kohala Hospital. These Blankets of Aloha is one of the many ways in which Hāmākua-Kohala Health gives back to the individuals and families of Kohala every holiday season. For many years we have participated in the Laulima Giving Program and have partnered with AlohaCare and HMSA, whereby donations of food, househould items and toys for the keiki are donated to ease the holiday strain for families in need. This holiday season 22 seniors, five families and over 20 keiki received a blanket or Basket of Aloha. Our Hāmākua-Kohala Health ʻohana thanks the Kohala community for the opportunity to continue to be your medical, behavioral and dental provider of choice. Wishing all of Kohala a safe and great start of the New Year. For more information on services we provide and resources available to you and your family, please call (808) 889-6236 or visit us online at hamakua-health.org.