Monday, March 17, 2008

Kawai nui Marsh: A Hawaii Treasure

At one time, Kawainui Marsh was part of the Kailua ahupua'a or the area between the mountains and the ocean where the inhabitants lived a sustainable and self sufficient life. Today, it is the largest remaining wetland in Hawaii, and it is home to at least four species of endangered waterfowl: Hawaiian stilt, Hawaiian coot, the Hawaiian moorhen (gallinule) and the Hawaiian duck (koloa). The marsh is also a sacred place with several heiau or Hawaiian burial sites including the large Ulupo heiau (Look for an entry on this in the future).

The Army Corp of Engineers built a mile-long levee alongside the marsh to prevent flooding. Today, this levee is a popular place to take a walk in the early morning and evening. It is also a good place to spot birds and the other inhabitants of the marsh. Surrounded by the Koolau mountains, this lovely green space offers serenity and wonderful views of Mt. Olomana.

You can enter the levee from Kaha Park, at the end of Kaha Street, or from Kailua Road. Numerous ducks, including mallards, muscovies and Hawaiian ducks, hang out at Kaha Park, as they have got used to being fed. We don't encourage this, but I must admit that children do enjoy feeding the ducks.

Several community groups such as Ahahui Malama I Ka Lokahi work to protect the marsh. They organize service learning projects and educational hikes and seminars. Presently, a master plan is being developed to protect this natural, cultural and historical treasure. An article in the Honolulu Star-Bulletin in 2007 provides more information on the plan.

Hamakua marsh, an offshoot of Kawainui Marsh, is another good place to spot birds. Hamakua Marsh runs alongside Hamakua Road in Kailua.

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