by Lowell Angell
The Wa`ahila Ridge State Recreation Area will soon be renovated and some improvements made by the State Parks Division. Established in 1967, the park is accessed from St. Louis Heights and encompasses 50 acres on the mountain ridge between Mānoa Valley and Pālolo Valley. The 12-acre developed area includes pavilions, picnic tables, walkways, restrooms and parking. These will be repaired or replaced, and 14 new parking spaces added.
Shaded by giant Norfolk and Cook pines and ironwood trees planted in an early 1930s reforestation project, the park offers striking views of Mānoa and Pālolo and is a quiet, cool mountain oasis with a trail along the ridge into the Koolau mountain range. It starts as an easy walk but becomes more strenuous the farther you go.
Wa‘ahila Ridge is part of the traditional Hawaiian cultural landscape. The place name refers to a beneficent Mānoa rain as well as a chiefess who excelled in a dance named for her. Three Hawaiian mo`olelo refer to geological/botanical features on Wa`ahila Ridge by the place names Kahalapuna, Kāumana, and Lauhine. This is where the rains of Mānoa Valley originate and the tales explain weather phenomena, such as why rainbows frequently appear in the valley and the path of the Mānoa winds.
Wa`ahila Ridge has an important ongoing value to native Hawaiian cultural practices. In 2002, during the Conservation District contested case hearings for Hawaiian Electric’s proposed 138-KV transmission line project along the ridge, the National Trust for Historic Preservation named it as an endangered historic property. Testimony by kupuna cited the negative impacts of the powerline and poles to Kauhi, the Sleeping Giant. The crest of the ridge is described as the profile of Kauhi, laying on his back, hands folded on his chest, facing up to the sky and to the gods; Kauhi’s head is mauka, his legs are the base of Wa‘ahila (by Dole Street) and his feet extend into Kanewai Field. The area today retains its impressive natural beauty. If you have never driven up and enjoyed Wa`ahila Ridge State Recreation Area, you certainly should do so. It’s a local treasure we can all enjoy, and soon to be made even better.