Hawaii Kai tree victory highlights heiau’s importance

Hawaii celebrated a victory when a very tall palm tree was named top tree in the American Forests’ Big Tree Madness contest. At 112 feet tall, “Coco” stands high above most trees in Hawaii Kai.

While many are celebrating Coco’s victory, a few, like Ann Marie Kirk of Livable Hawaii Kai Hui, know that the now-famous palm tree and the Hawea Heiau it calls home was almost forgotten.

“At one time this (heiau) was slated to be tennis courts, a swimming pool area and possible putting green,” Kirk said.

In June of 2009, KHON2 was there to hear the concerns of community leaders after construction crews building a luxury condominium buried a section of the heiau and bulldozed portions of the sacred archaeological site.

“That call that went out to KHON2 to ask for help really expanded the story to a wider community and people never knew the name Hawea,” Kirk said. “They didn’t know about it and with one broadcast it went statewide.”

Less than a week after our story aired, the city ordered construction to stop because the contractor didn’t have the permits to conduct grading work near the heiau.

“It’s like that land was suffocating and we’re letting it breathe again,” Kirk said. “And it’s revealing itself to us. So Coco is just that positive energy that’s moving forward for the whole place.”

The property is no longer being developed as a luxury condominium. In fact, the new landowner sold five acres surrounding the heiau to the Livable Hawaii Kai Hui for a fraction of its value.

“It’s excellent to have a good neighbor now on both sides, so we’ve all come together in harmony and now we can continue to watch this grow to fruition,” said Evangeline Yacuk of Livable Hawaii Kai Hui.

After some early challenges, community members are grateful they have a good neighbor now and the sacred land will forever be protected.

“Mahalo KHON, because they’re a part of the success of what’s happened here at Hawea and Keawawa wetlands and to Coco as well,” Kirk said.

Livable Hawaii Kai Hui is holding a community volunteer service day on Saturday, April 12, from 8:30-11:30 a.m. Workers will help prepare the land for future native plants and wetland enhancement.

If you’d like to participate, check in at The Oahu Club’s Pro Shop at 6800 Hawaii Kai Dr. Orientation begins at 8:30 a.m.

Volunteers are encouraged to wear closed-toe shoes, long pants, sunscreen and a hat, and bring work gloves and a refillable water container.

Student service project credit available.

For more information, call 864-8081 or email Livable Hawaii Kai Hui.

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