Ancient freshwater spring permanently protected in East Honolulu

One of East Honolulu’s few remaining freshwater springs is now forever protected.

Kanewai Spring in Hawaii Kai feeds clean water into Kanewai Fishpond, Paiko Wildlife Sanctuary, and Maunalua Bay, providing a home for rare limpets and mollusks.

The property also includes many Hawaiian cultural resources including a kuula (stone fishing shrine), a makaha (fish gate) and a traditional dry stacked wall lining the spring.

On Wednesday, the city, state, Trust for Public Land (TPL), and Maunalua Fishpond Heritage Center (MFHC) announced the successful purchase of the property to protect it from development and ensure its vital role in conservation and education.

“When you’re in a place like Kanewai, there is a special feeling and it’s really a feeling of not being the first ones there,” explained Laura Kaakua of TPL. “There’s been so many people, many of whom we might never even know their names, but they came here. They gathered water here. This was their life source, literally.”

TPL and MFHC began working together in 2012 to purchase the Kanewai Spring property with support of the landowner, Rikuo Corporation.

The state Department of Land and Natural Resources Legacy Land Conservation Program pitched in $1.3 million, and the city’s Clean Water and Natural Lands Program contributed an additional $1 million for the purchase. Local foundations and donors raised $350,000 to cover the costs of the transaction and expenses for land management.

The land is now permanently protected through a conservation easement with binding restrictions that will be monitored and enforced by the city and area nonprofit Livable Hawaii Kai Hui.

MFHC will continue to steward the land and host regular volunteer days for schools and the community, to provide a unique educational and service learning experience while restoring a healthy native ecosystem and perpetuating Hawaiian culture.

“It’s really all about aloha aina,” Kaakua said. “It’s love for the land that then takes care of you. I’s the reciprocal relationship. It’s a cycle that never stops, and once you come to a place like Kanewai and you spend the day working, it’s hard work, but you feel rejuvenated at the end of it, and we want everyone to have that experience.”

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