LIHU‘E — In less than 15 days, over 10% of Kaua‘i residents have signed a petition opposing new resort development at the site of the former Coco Palms Resort.
Mayor Derek Kawakami issued a statement to the I Ola Wailuanui Working Group on Friday, stating in part, “There is a growing sentiment from our residents that the site not be returned to a resort, but instead become a community gathering place, such as a park with agricultural and cultural elements.”
Kawakami went on to say, “We will work with the new owners to ensure that whatever becomes of the property, we honor the sacred nature of this site and the wishes of our community.”
The I Ola Wailuanui Working Group, wailuanui.org/the-team, began forming in April of 2020 around the core goal of transitioning the former Coco Palms hotel site, Wailuanuiaho‘ano, into a community-owned, developed and managed place for Hawaiian culture, education, restoration and more.
This effort will be done so in a way that honors the deep history of this sacred place as the once social and political center of old Kaua‘i, the group said.
“We are confident that no hotel will be rebuilt on the grounds of the historic Coco Palms Hotel site in the future,” group member Fern Anuenue Holland said.
“Given the incredible cultural and historical significance of the site, we are sure that our shared vision to restore this to a place that benefits the community and honors its rich history is the only acceptable path forward for this place. The time has come for Wailuanuiaho‘ano to be restored to a flourishing space for cultural enrichment, education, conservation and food production,” she said.
Heading into the auction date on Monday, support for the I Ola Wailuanui vision continues to build in the community. At press time Saturday nearly 10,000 people had signed the online petition, with the vast majority being Kaua‘i residents.
The property has two ancient loko pu‘uone (dune banked inland fishponds), named Weuweu and Kaiwi‘iki, or Kawai‘iki. These fishponds are estimated to be at least 600 to 800 years old or older. This ancient site should be restored and preserved for future generations, and is an important part of the future, culture and food security, the group said.
Part of the former Coco Palms Hotel is built on a graveyard. Mapped on the old maps from the Mahele, this site included the Mahunapu‘uone Cemetery. In 1973 during the Coco Palms Hotel expansion of the north wing, 34 sets of human remains were unearthed during construction. It is unknown how many others were in the original development. The remains of iwi kupuna buried in this sacred land must be honored, the group said.
Pua Rossi-Fukino, a founding member of I Ola Wailuanui Working Group, whose ancestors are directly connected to these lands, summed up the status quo, and speculated about what might happen on auction day.
“With the help of Ke Akua, the steadfast commitment of many, and the generous support of those who would honor and respect our shared vision, at the end of the day on Monday, July 26, these sacred lands will be heading back to our community, where they belong,” she said.
”Either gifted through the generosity of a community benefactor, or if not, we with roots deep in this ‘aina know for certain that there will never be another hotel built in this sacred place,” Rossi-Fukino said.