KOLOA — Ted Kawahinehelelani Blake traces his roots to 65 generations on the South Shore.
“I live in Koloa and I’m very passionate about the place I live,” Blake said.
It’s his kuleana for Koloa and Poipu that inspires, motivates and drives Blake and a handful of local residents of Malama Koloa — a nonprofit formed in 2011 that aims to preserve and restore Hawaiian culture as well as support community projects.
The restoration of Queen Emma’s house at the National Tropical Botanical Gardens, the creation of Holoholo Koloa, and the clearing and mending of Hapa Trail are notable projects on the Southside Malama Koloa have spearheaded.
“We try to achieve balance in our community and we treat everyone with respect and dignity,” said Blake, executive director of Malama Koloa.
The three projects amount to countless volunteer hours from several community members, he said.
Malama Koloa promotes the historical features of old Koloa, said Rep. Dee Morikawa (D-Niihau, Koloa, Waimea).
“It’s really good because it’s an area heavy with visitors,” she said. “By them allowing visitors to enjoy and appreciate what Koloa used to have, I think that’s great so we don’t forget what happened in the past.”
The Southside is the economic engine of Kauai, Blake said.
“We want to put our best foot forward. We want to make sure that everybody has an opportunity to share in it,” he said.
The historic town is home to the oldest Protestant and Catholic churches, the first successful sugar cane company and the first school — Koloa Elementary.
Koloa would not be what it is today without the Hapa Trail, a path that spans 1.6 miles from Poipu Road to St. Raphael Church, Blake said.
“Hapa Trail was the government road between Koloa and Poipu and that was the main road before Hoonani Road, which was the coastal road, was built,” Blake said. “The coastal road used to continue through Kiahuna and Waiohai.”
In 2006, the late Louie Abrams, former president of the Koloa Community Association, told Blake about the condition of the Hapa Trail and told him to take charge.
For four and a half months, six (sometimes seven) days a week, Blake and the late Carlos Buhk worked tirelessly to clear the trail.
“Back then, it was exciting to think there was going to be a path that people could use to get to Koloa town down to Poipu,” Morikawa said. “That would be a safer route for people to walk, enjoy, bike. That’s what I got excited about when I first saw the trail.”
In August, Dow Agroscience agreed to donate time, manpower and machinery to help with the clearing of the trail, which amounted to tens of thousands of dollars.
The nonprofit was awarded 2,600 cubic yards of rock that would repair and rebuild the Hapa Trail walls.
“We’d like to get the boundaries surveyed, then we can build a wall to the boundaries and there’s buffer zone of 30 feet,” Blake said.
Blake and other volunteers are working on the trail restoration work along by Poipu Road.
“I’m hoping (Teddy) can leave generations now and future generations with the information, so we never lose the history,” Morikawa said. “I’m glad he’s taking it on and he’s still going at it.”
If the next generation doesn’t know where they came from, they don’t know where they’re going, Blake said.
“This place is so important. Anything that happened in Hawaii, happened in Koloa first,” he said.