May 20, 2016
Groups share responsibility in perpetuating Mauna ʻAla
By Lee Cataluna, Honolulu Star Advertiser
A cross on the roof of the chapel is newly gilded, the gold painted on by hand by a restoration specialist who balanced on scaffolding for hours to carefully brush away years of weather damage to the historic piece.
Over the last nine years, major renovations and repairs have been completed at Mauna ʻAla, final resting place for members of Hawaiian royalty. The Royal Mausoleum in Nuuanu is a place of tranquility and reverence, but it is also busy with daily visitors and ritual-rich ceremonies held in honor of the alii who are buried there.
The site was showing signs of disrepair, from a rough and rutted driveway to termites in the chapel, weather-worn finishes and a public bathroom that was all but falling down. The 3.5-acre site was established in 1864 by Kamehameha IV to house the remains of the direct descendants of Kamehameha the Great and their closest relatives and advisers. It now falls under the administration of the state Department of Land and Natural Resources.
In 2004 trustees of the Charles Reed Bishop Trust commissioned a study on what needed to be done to restore and maintain the site. That report led to a cooperative effort among alii trusts, private organizations, state and federal agencies as well as private donors to raise more than $2 million to fund the work — a fairly rare example of very different groups joining together on a single project.
“It wasn’t just pointing a finger at the state and saying the state gotta do something,” said Ed Kalama, communications manager at Kamehameha Schools. “All these entities worked together for the common good.”
Every weekday morning just before 8, Kai Maioho opens the gates of Mauna ʻAla and raises the hae Hawaii, the Hawaiian flag. Maioho, 43, is kahu of the Royal Mausoleum, following in the line of six generations of his family who have taken care of the scared grounds. For a time, he lived in Waipio and owned a skateboard shop in Pearl City. He was named kahu when his father, Bill Maioho, died last year. He moved back to the caretaker’s cottage at Mauna ʻAla where he had grown up. It is still a modest structure, though it has recently been expanded from a one-bedroom cottage.
“Every morning, a friend of my father comes by,” Maioho said. “He rides his bike to work downtown, but if he sees a fallen palm frond, he’ll stop and pick it up.”
It’s that spirit of shared responsibility that is the vision for Mauna ʻAla. A memorandum of understanding was created with the DLNR, Lunalilo Trust, Queen Liliu- okalani Trust, Queen’s Health Systems, the estate of Bernice Pauahi Bishop, Charles Reed Bishop Trust and the Abigail Kawananakoa Foundation for the future needs of Mauna ʻAla.
Holly McEldowney, archaeologist with state parks, said, “A really important point is the plan for semiannual walk-throughs so we can identify problems before they become more costly to fix.”
“It takes away from the enormity of costs of maintaining this special place. Each trust has individual kuleana for certain areas, and then there’s shared kuleana for some areas,” said Stacy Clayton, coordinator for the Charles Reed Bishop Trust. “And everything is from Uncle Bill Maioho’s vision.”