Thousands of volunteers help restore 800-year-old fishpond in Windward Oahu

Thousands of volunteers help restore 800-year-old fishpond in Windward Oahu
Published: Dec. 12, 2015 at 10:36 PM HST|Updated: Dec. 12, 2015 at 10:38 PM HST
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Heeia - Thousands of volunteers gathered in Windward Oahu on Saturday to help restore an 800-year-old structure that was damaged decades ago.

Organizers of the event were asking for 1,000 volunteers. But instead, more than 2,000 people showed up in what is being called a historical day in Hawaii.

Paepae o He'eia began the Pani ka Puka (filling the hole) Campaign about a year ago. It was created to fill an 80-foot puka, or hole, caused by a damaging flood in 1965, which made the 800-year-old fishpond unusable for 50 years.

Volunteers formed a single-file line which spanned more than 2,000 feet to pass the final rocks and coral from land to sea, which is how fishponds were built in ancient Hawaii.

The campaign came to fruition on Saturday with thousands of helping hands and more than $100,000 in donations. The non-profit organization's assistant executive direction says it hasn't been easy.

"A lot of stress, combined with hard work, combined with a little bit of cuts and scrapes and scratches and smash fingers. But really most of it has just been a year of intense focus and preparation to get this fishpond back to a point of production," Kelii Kotubetey said.

A familiar face was also in the crowd, sweating, just like everyone else. Governor David Ige called Saturday's efforts "heart-warming."

"It truly is a community effort. As you can see, there are thousands here and I just wanted to be here to help," said Ige.

Paepae o He'eia's main goal is to cultivate fish in a traditional fashion and to provide food to the community once again.

"I think the overwhelming passion of it is self-sustainability. If Hawaii cannot be self sustainable for at least 70-percent of our goods, then it is very difficult for us to…build the community that everyone is pushing for," said volunteer Umi Kai.

Although the Kani ka Puka Campaign ended on Saturday, it marks the beginning of a new era.

The next step is farming the fish so that it is usable for aquaculture again like how it was for hundreds of years before the floods.

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