Land Transfer Preserves Heiau Complex, Keawawa Wetlands

Things have not gone so well for a thrice-cancelled Hawaii Kai luxury condo project, but its neighbor – which is a treasure trove of wildlife habitat and cultural history – is doing fine.

Supporters of the Hawea heiau complex and Keawawa wetlands have joined a partnership to protect and preserve the 7-acre parcel, made official by The Trust for Public Land, which bought it for $650,000 from Hale Ka Lae condo investors and transferred it to the nonprofit Livable Hawaii Kai Hui. The agreement was announced by Mayor Kirk Caldwell March 20 during a press conference at the site.

“This heritage preserve is located in the heart of Hawaii Kai’s residential and commercial development,” stated Caldwell at the event. “Our keiki will always be able to visit Hawea, hear the old stories, learn the traditions associated with this area, and pass them on to the next generation.”

Hui president Elizabeth Reilly shared her pride in the group’s volunteer care of Hawea over the past four years, and looked ahead. “Guided by our cultural committee, eventually we hope to create a pa pahu (drumming area), traditional hale and a la’au lapa’au garden (for medicinal herbs).”

She also invited those gathered to the Hui’s monthly open house and cleanup effort. (The next one is 8:30-11:30 a.m. this Saturday. Call 864-8081 or visit

Christine Camp of Avalon Group, which is overseeing future plans for Hale Ka Lae, said it sold the parcel to TPL at below appraised value because “it sees the value that a protected cultural site and wetland brings to Hale Ka Lae’s future residents.

“The Trust for Public Land’s research has shown what real estate experts have known for a long time,” Camp added. “Parks and open space can increase the value of surrounding land and development.”

As official new caretaker of the heiau and wetlands, meanwhile, the Hui is awed by the birth of an endangered alae’ula chick in the preserve, and understandably proud of a certain coconut palm there, “Coco,” which recently won the online March Madness Big Tree Competition vote, beating out nominees from Utah, Missouri and Texas.

The public may now regard it as the tallest Cocos nucifera in the nation.