Tuesday, Feb. 20, 2024 |
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KILAUEA — Access to water was a major problem for the first phase of the Kilauea Community Agricultural Park.
But no longer.
Friday, the first trenches were dug for the park water lines. Five water meters are in place and are waiting for the water department to sign off on them and the pipes are ready to go.
“It’s all gravity fed and if we need more pressure, we can turn the pumps on in Wai Koa,” said Yoshito L’Hote, executive director of ‘Aina Ho’okupu o Kilauea, the organization in charge of the park. “And we wanted to make sure we had water before we did the blessing.”
The blessing will be held March 20 on the site, which is 75 acres of undeveloped land bordering Kahili Quarry Road.
The dream of a sustainable ag park began in 1976 when the developer of the neighboring Seacliff Plantation residential community was required to dedicate the land to the county for the park.
George Costa, county director of economic development who took on the project in 2009, said that dedication finally happened in 2006, and it’s unknown why it took so long.
The land was transferred to the nonprofit community group ‘Aina Ho’okupu o Kilauea through a stewardship agreement in 2014 after Costa conducted an environmental assessment that showed a lack of water.
The county estimated the cost would be about $3 million for a water system, but ‘Aina Ho’okupu o Kilauea was able to bring that cost down to just about $1 million. A big reason for that is because ‘Aina Ho’okupu o Kilauea secured a commitment of 360 gallons of water per day from the water system at Anaina Hou Community Park.
“That’s from the water system they’re managing for the mini-golf area and the farm land,” L’Hote said.
Using the pumps at Wai Koa and Anaina Hou is cheaper than owning their own pumps, as well, so ‘Aina Ho’okupu o Kilauea will also be saving money on running the system.
“This was our huge mountain and few walked through it in a couple of months,” L’Hote said.
In less than a year, volunteers with ‘Aina Ho’okupu o Kilauea have cleared 11 acres, shredded everything, and spread mulch.
The finishing touch for the first phase is installing the water system with its storage container and office space.
The focus is set on the first phase because water access is still needed on the rest of the site and that’s going to cost nearly half a million dollars. ‘Aina Ho’okupu o Kilauea is looking at grant funding for that part of the project.
“Solving this water system is our number one and major mission,” L’Hote said.
The plan for the park is to allow 30 families to work together, with a six-month commitment, under the supervision of a farm manager to grow food.
Those families will receive a bi-weekly, custom-made box of produce with at least seven items.
Seeds, tools, fertilizers, and soil amendments will be provided to families. Compost will be made on-site, and there will be opportunities for education and guidance from a professional farmer.
Work on the community farm is expected to begin April 1, when those involved will build some of the necessary structures, like raised beds, bathrooms and a farmers’ market area. Compost will also be started that day, as well as seeding.
‘Aina Ho’okupu o Kilauea is looking for volunteers to help build the infrastructure of the farm.
The first day of the commitment for the 30 participating households will be on June 1.
“I’m just a facilitator, but the project has been waiting long enough to be implemented,” L’Hote said. “I’m excited to see it blossom.”
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