Community members plot different plans for Ewa Cemetery

EWA, OAHU (HawaiiNewsNow) - The Ewa Cemetery has been at the center of controversy over the last week or so. But now that some of that has blown over, there's still a question on how to preserve the historic site, even as development continue around it.

Last week, state lawmakers approved a $100,000 grant to a non-profit organization with ties to state Rep. Rida Cabanilla (D-Ewa Villages, Ewa Beach, West Loch) for maintenance at the cemetery. Volunteers said the money isn't needed since maintenance is already being handled by the city.

"I think maybe the intent was to do something about the graveyard, about this cemetery, but never really materialized up until last week," said community volunteer Glenn Oamilda.

Volunteers like Oamilda don't like that the cemetery has become somewhat of a political football. However, it has brought more attention to the historical site, where the oldest grave dates back to 1878.

The Ewa Beach Lions Club has had plans to increase some landscaping and to put in a pavilion to help people find the gravesides of family members who passed long ago.

"What the city requires of us is that we draw it up, send it in to the Department of Facilities Maintenance, they'll put it in to the Department of Planning and Permitting, and if its up to specs, then we'll be able to do it. But we're not even there yet," said club president Kurt Fevella.

There had been a fundraising effort on the Web site Go Fund Me, but Fevella said the effort was no longer active.

"They want to do a lot of stuff, but you gotta petition SHPD, which is the State Historic Preservation Division, and there's no way they're going to allow you to do that without some kind of oversight," said Oamilda.

Kibul Pantohan, who has voluntarily cared for the cemetery since 1998, who has help from the city, which has a crew cut the grass on a regular basis. While the Lions Club has had plans to restore the headstones, he said some of them can't be fixed.

"I just leave it like that, original. You gonna change something it's humbug, yeah?," he said.

Even if some of the volunteers and groups disagree, it looks like the past will be maintained at the cemetery.

"We got the ball rolling," said Fevella. "We want to keep it rolling, not stopped by controversy. This should be stopped. This done already. I mean it only makes the community hurt."

Related story: Lions Club and good Samaritans clean up cemetery

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