Over 100 show for Ala Loa Trail event

KILAUEA — Agnes Keaolani Marti-Kini felt anxious Saturday, as she awaited dozens of people eager to learn about an ancient footpath her kupuna and ancestors used for hundreds of years.

“This Ala Loa was used to access fishing grounds, traverse from one community to another, used to gather medicine and used as a highway,” said the Anahola resident and po‘o (head) of Aha Moku Koolau. “Now landowners, who have come in and were not informed the lateral cross of the Ala Loa was on their properties, are claiming the Ala Loa does not exist.”

But she and others say the footpath that encompass the Garden Island does exist.

Marti-Kini and a handful of kupuna educated over 100 people about the Ala Loa Trail by the entrance of north Koolau Road, by Kuhio Highway’s mile marker 20, in an effort to raise awareness to the public and the landowners whose lands are part of the ancient footpath.

“Our highest hope would be that an invitation be extended to Mark Zuckerberg and come out and bless us with his presence, so we can embrace him to our community,” said Tim Kallai, a Koolau Road resident. “And to understand and educate himself as to how we do things in the community here on Kauai.”

In a Jan. 27 letter to The Garden Island, Zuckerberg expressed regret for filing eight quiet title lawsuits on about a dozen parcels of kuleana land on his 700-acre estate in Kilauea. Part of the Ala Loa Trail crosses his property, say advocates for the trail.

After a prayer and listening to Ala Loa researchers and kupuna, the crowd walked along Koolau Road to show support for the trail.

The Ala Loa Trail is protected by the Highways Act of 1892, Marti-Kini said.

“We have maps that date to 1833,” she said. “It’s undisputed the Ala Loa exists. We want to bring awareness to the Ala Loa, so the public can use it.”

Researchers of the Ala Loa Trail confirm it exists.

“The challenge here on Kauai is a lot of the Ala Loa hasn’t been designated officially by the state of Hawaii,” said Shane Cobb-Adams, Anahola resident. “So it’s created this challenge with new landowners (who) come in and buy a piece of paper and don’t understand there are public thoroughfares that go through their land that’s been there forever.”

Kallai, who uses the trail to fish and throw net with his family, also hopes the state gets involved.

“They’ve been reluctant to delineate where the trail is, but we’d love for that to happen,” he said.

Nalani Kaneaku, an Anahola resident who is an heir of kuleana land on Zuckerberg’s property, said everybody should have access to the trail.

“The Ala Loa is the footprints our forefathers, kupuna, ancestors walked on, and having that for our keiki to go to places we grew up on and still have that is important,” she said. “There’s a large acrerage here that is being blocked. … Some of our local braddas go fish, and they get chased out by the employees who work for the landowners. They’re our own braddas, so it’s sad we’re put against each other.”

Robert Sitkoff, a resident of Marietta, Georgia, wore white to the event to show support.

“We have friends here and we support the values of the Native Hawaiians and one of them is this trail,” he said. “The trail is important because it’s their history. It shouldn’t be private. Whether Mark Zuckerberg is making it private or not, we don’t know what he’s doing yet.”

Healani Youn, kumu hula for Keala o ka laua‘e, was eager to learn more about the trail.

“I’m not familiar with the Ala Loa Trail, and I’m born and raised on Kauai,” she said with a laugh. “As a kumu hula, you always have to continually learn.”

Youn said the ultimate goal for the event was to spread the feeling of love and aloha and joy to everybody in the world.

“I’m doing this for my people,” she said. “It’s to perpetuate the beauty of my culture which has been suppressed for many, many years.”

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