WAILUA — In Hawaiian, “Lae Nani” means “beautiful point of land.” And while the administration and grounds crew of Lae Nani Condos ensure their property is properly maintained, there is an eyesore they hope to remedy in the near future.
Kukui Heiau, what used to be a spiritual and sacred place for Native Hawaiians, is now overrun with weeds, plants and trees.
“Being a part of this island, there are people who live here and been here for generations who feel that this place is a part of their culture and history,” said Bob Smith, Lae Nani resident and community liaison and secretary for Lae Nani’s board of directors. “And we want them to know that we are trying to maintain the kind of atmosphere that will respect that heritage and history.”
Smith and the rest of Lae Nani’s residents and officials want to see Kukui Heiau restored to its former glory. Much of what makes Lae Nani a special place for visitors is its landscape, Smith said.
“We don’t have a direct responsibility, but we want to take care of it. We’re ready. We want to be able to take part in this,” he said. “Since our property is so close in proximity to the heiau and other properties that belong to the state or county, we have to be very careful that we don’t infringe upon any other property. But at the same time, we want to assist and make sure the adjacent property is pristine.”
Marjorie Valenzuela, Lae Nani’s office administrator, said the association previously tried to clean out the heiau, but was given a “slap on the wrist” for the way they went about it by the local community.
“It is a sacred land area,” she said. “They didn’t want us to just go over there. They don’t want us to cut things were not supposed to cut or move things we’re not supposed to move.”
While an exact date for the cleanup to start hasn’t been set, the county announced on its Facebook page July 5 that there is an agreement in place to assist Lae Nani with the project.
“The County of Kauai, Na Hoku Welo, and community volunteers signed a stewardship agreement of Kukui Heiau located near Wailua on July 5. Jimbo Alalem and William Ka‘auwai II are the designated Po‘o for this Heiau,” it reads. “The agreement is part of the Adopt-A-Park Program, where the County provides community volunteers with tools and supplies to help care for various County parks and cultural sites throughout the island.”
Alalem previously told TGI it’s important to understand the sacredness of heiau to the Hawaiian culture. It represents the genealogy of the Hawaiian people and tells the history of its storied past, Alalem said.
Alalem has been steward of Holoholuku Heiau since the early 1980s.
“Without the history, there is no future,” he said.
Alden Alayvilla, county spokesman, told TGI the agreement is on its way to the County Council. If approved, cultural training courses will be administered to ensure that the heiau is cleaned properly.
With those lessons learned, Lae Nani hopes to move forward with the cleanup by working with the County of Kauai.
“We just want to make sure that we’re not doing anything wrong. We want to make sure the Hawaiian community is aware of what we’re doing,” Valenzuela said. “We’re trying to get the county more involved. We’re not entirely sure when exactly that will happen. We just want it to look like the other heiaus on the island.”