Group fights to protect ancient Hawaiian site

Editor’s note: This story has been updated to include a response by the state Department of Land and Natural Resources.

Caretakers of a historic home that once belonged to King Kamehameha III and Queen Kalama say the historic site is not getting the respect it deserves.

The area is off-limits to the public, but that’s not stopping people from using the site as their own playground.

It’s a historic place and a place many consider sacred, but there’s a problem at Kaniakapupu.

“People climb the walls and as you can see, the walls are not structurally sound and they are knocking this place down,” said Baron Ching, vice president of Ahahui Malama O Kaniakapupu, the group who takes care of the site. “It’s important politically. It’s important in terms of religion.”

Ching says people not only show up to see the structure, but some people are leaving graffiti, climbing on the walls and moving pieces of the structure.

That’s not all. “Somebody was doing topless photography up here,” added Ching.

Kaniakapupu is a closed site, not open to the public.

According to state officials, the watershed area which was designated as “sensitive” by the Board of Water Supply, and is restricted to protect the drinking water resources of Honolulu.

Human presence can degrade the forest area by introducing invasive species, causing erosion in areas not maintained for public traffic and reduce vital recharge to our water supply, officials said.

However, like many locations here in Hawaii which are off-limits, websites are still promoting them and people are showing up illegally.

“I have actually gone on to these (web)sites and said no you are not free to do this,” said Ching.

Signs have been posted by the group telling people to keep out, but someone stole the signs.

“Some people hold it sacred, some people don’t, but you just cant go out and desecrate it,” said Ching.

After our initial story aired, the state Department of Land and Natural Resources said it will put new signage up to indicate that the area is restricted.

Anyone concerned about prohibited entry into a restricted watershed area may call Division of Conservation and Resources Enforcement at 643-DLNR (3567).

Anyone who knowingly takes, destroys or alters any historic property is liable for civil and administrative penalties. Violators can also be fined between $500 to $10,000 for each violation.

Kaniakapūpū

Summer Palace of King Kamehameha III and his Queen Kalama. Completed in 1845, it was the scene of entertainment of foreign celebrities and the feasting of chiefs and commoners. The greatest of these occasions was a lūʻau attended by an estimated ten thousand people celebrating Hawaiian Restoration Day in 1847.

– Inscription on a plaque at the site of Kaniakapūpū

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