Protecting Pololū

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By Kekoaopololū Kealoha and Kehaulani Hedlund

Famously known as one of the most prominent childhood homes of Kamehameha Paiʻea, Pololū remains one of Hawaiʻi’s most pristine and unchanged places inhabited by our kūpuna for generations.

Pololū and the connecting valleys were the home of the high-ranking chiefs of Kohala loko. However, remnants of our past are no longer tangible to us Kānaka: lōʻī no longer sprawl on the valley floor, and the last known generational valley families are grandparents now, guiding their moʻopuna within a kauhale structure.

This kauhale is composed of ʻohana from Pololū, Makanikahio, Niuliʻi, Makapala, and Halaʻula, all of whom still have a deep connection to this wahi pana. Eia ko mākou piko. Lineal descendants and local residents are still kahu to this area; it is an ancestral kuleana that calls us to duty. There is no other place for us to call home. This is how we operate when we are spurred into action.

We who cherish this wahi pana are the Protect Pololū ʻOhana. Eia mākou mai Kohala ʻāina haʻaheo i ka ua mehameha ʻoia nō o ka ʻāina kaulana i ka naʻi aupuni. We are the lineal descendants of Tūtū Annabelle Kumuhonua Pupuka AhLoo Moku. We trace our ancestry to Pololū through her father, Kaniela Pupuka. I am Kekoaopololū Kealoha with my hoa hānau, Kehaulani Hedlund of Niuliʻi, Kohala, Hawaiʻi.

On Dec. 11, 2020, at the Board of Land and Natural Resources (BLNR) meeting, the Division of Forestry and Wildlife requested approval to apply as a co-applicant with Surety Kohala Corporation and KP Holdings LLC to the County of Hawaiʻi Planning Department to submit a Parcel Consolidation and Re-Subdivision (PCRS) application.

This application would give Surety a path to subdivide one of its larger agricultural lots into 13 smaller residential lots. Surety, one of the largest landowners in Kohala, offered to donate 5 acres of land in the same area to the State of Hawaiʻi for a parking lot and comfort station as well as acreage on the valley floor for conservation. This donation would be provided after the PCRS application was approved – an attractive offer to the county because of the parking problems that plague the Pololū Valley lookout.

This exchange, however, was not public knowledge prior to the BLNR meeting and has no community support.

When the BLNR meeting discussion went public, there was a swift response from the community. The Protect Pololū Project intends to prevent development along the ridge of Pololū Valley, and ‘ohana quickly distributed a petition, collecting over 847,000 signatures in opposition to the proposed residential development.

ʻŌpio from Kohala High School created a video to voice their opposition to the proposed parking lot and subdivision, calling on elected public officials to work with and for the community. They also sent letters to legislators to raise their concerns.

There have been multiple efforts from the hui to get Kānaka back on ʻāina. A lineal descendant led ʻohana and community members in an event to string a single lei lāʻī that stretched 1,600 feet across the valley floor and separated the public access trail from the sand dunes.

To address the over-tourism issues, the Pololū Trail Steward Program was announced. This pilot project, funded by the Hawaiʻi Tourism Authority, is a collaboration with KUPU, Nā Ala Hele Trails and Access Program, and the Protect Pololū ʻohana, and will harness the power of local stewardship to continue the tradition of kuleana. To prepare, Protect Pololū ʻohana worked with Nā Ala Hele and 40 volunteers to close the legal parking area for maintenance in a community-wide effort to clean the trailhead, trail, and beach.

Photo: Waterfall in Pololū Valley
Kapoloa Falls nestled deep in Pololū Valley attracts adventure-seekers. The Pololū Trail Steward Program is a collaboration that will help to manage hikers to protect the valley and mitigate injuries. Photo: Kehaulani Hedlund.

However, more work remains. We continue to fight proposed development along the ridge of the valley, as well as the negative impacts of overcrowding in community action meetings.

Illegal camping continues in conservation areas. People venture away from public access areas. ʻŌpala is left behind by oblivious hikers. New makeshift structures appear throughout the valley regularly (more about the dos and don’ts can be found at kohalakuleana.org).

ʻO Kohala kākou. ʻO Pololū kākou. We are Kohala. We are all Pololū. It will take a collaborative effort from everyone to support our kauhale, to protect our piko. We mahalo the Office of Hawaiian Affairs for this opportunity to share our moʻolelo with ka Lāhui Hawaiʻi.

Whether this ʻāina is your kulāiwi, or you are kupa o Kohala, or malihini, we need your support. We need you to stand by our side and elevate this effort, e kūpaʻa kākou. Please sign our petition and join us in future events.

Mau nō ke aloha ʻāina na māua ka moʻopuna a ka ʻohana Pupuka mai Pololū. E ola.

To sign the Protect Pololū petition go to: bit.ly/3Dyewar or to donate go to: bit.ly/2XYyc6N


ʻO Beldon Kahokulani Kealoha ke kane. ʻO Jacquelyn Ann Tuttle ka wahine. Ua hānau ʻia ʻo Kekoaopololū Kaʻiama Kealoha he kane. Kekoaopololū (Kamehameha Schools Kapālama c/o 2003) of Niuliʻi, Kohala, Hawaiʻi currently lives in Kohanaiki, Kona, Hawaiʻi. Kekoaopoloū is an HIV medical case manager at Kumukahi Health + Wellness, West Hawaiʻi Office, and serves in various HIV health services committee roles across the pae ʻāina.

ʻO Brian Kaunaloa Boshard ke kāne. ʻO LiAnne Kehaulani Moku ka wahine. Ua noho pū lāua a hānau ʻia ʻo Brittney Kehaulani Boshard Hedlund he wahine. Kehaulani (Kamehameha Schools Kapālama c/o 2006), of Kaloko, Kona, is married to Helaku Hedlund of Makanikahio, Kohala, Hawaiʻi. She holds a master’s in education teaching from the University of Hawaiʻi Mānoa and teaches social studies at Kohala High School. She currently resides in Niuliʻi on the ʻāina of her Tūtū Māhoe Nuʻa where they raise their two keiki, Welo and Manu.