WATCH: Thousands of volunteers help restore 600-year-old Alakoko fishpond outside Līhu‘e
It was an impressive sight to behold Oct. 21 as people of all ages, in a half-mile long line, each placed rock after rock on an ancient wall that protects the Alakoko fishpond just outside Līhu‘e.
Organized by Kaua‘i nonprofit Mālama Hulē‘ia as the organizations five-year anniversary workday, the ambitious goal to have thousands of volunteers help restore the loko iʻa was realized. As of Friday morning, 1,500 people were registered and hundreds of unregistered volunteers showed up to lend a hand Saturday.
“We have school groups, paddling clubs, high school athletic teams and cultural practitioners from across the islands,” said Mālama Hulē‘ia board president Jan TenBruggencate. “The level of support that this project has generated is just remarkable.”
In teams of 20, each group worked in sections to raise the rock wall, which at one time protected the fishpond from flooding and will again upon completion. It was the largest community engagement day yet for the organization.
The Alakoko fishpond wall is somewhat unique as it is one-sided, only facing the Hulē‘ia River. Most other walls are two-sided. There are several breaches in the 2,700-foot wall that will need to be filled before it can perform its intended purpose.
On Saturday, the volunteer force rebuilt the wall everywhere else.
Mālama Hulē‘ia Executive Director Sara Bowen said once the wall is finished, the fishpond will be fully functional. She said one of the group’s first restoration missions was to remove 26-acres of invasive mangrove
“Alakoko fishpond is a link to the essence of what it means to grow your own food,” said Bowen. “It’s a link to the culture and the history of the people who cared for this place. So, it really links the past, current and future ‘āina movement.”