As summer was beginning, Keālia Pond National Wildlife Refuge announced the addition of a mosaic mural to the refuge’s education pavilion. The mural was made possible through a robust partnership with the Friends of Keālia Pond National Wildlife Refuge and refuge visitor services staff.
Created and installed by O’ahu based artist Leah K. Riggs, the mural depicts Keālia Pond’s land division, Waikapu, from the mountains to the sea and highlights the seasonality of the wetlands and its native animal and plant species. The mural is intended to provide a tactile and aesthetic learning experience inviting visitors to look closer and realize how much there is to discover at the refuge.
Refuge staff and the Friends of Keālia Pond National Wildlife Refuge gathered for a blessing with Native Hawaiian cultural practitioner Kimokeo Kapahulehua. Kapahulehua called upon the ancestors of air, land, and sea to entrust those who will care for and pass on the knowledge and value the mural holds to visitors, especially keiki, or children.
Established in 1992, the refuge protects over 700 acres between Kihei and Ma’alaea. The refuge has walking trails and a coastal boardwalk across part of Maui’s largest lowland wetland. Keālia Pond is home to over 30 species of birds, including migratory waterfowl, and provides nesting, feeding, and resting habitat to Hawaiian waterbirds including the endangered ‘alae ke’oke’o.
‘Alae, in general, are all culturally significant. They are considered the children of Hina, the moon goddess, and are in a number of traditional stories and legends.
Most famously, ‘alae are said to have held the secret of fire, as told in the legends of Maui. Stop inside the Keālia Pond National Wildlife Refuge visitor center and learn more about these stories from friendly docents or staff before heading out to see the mural and the ponds.
“Keālia Pond National Wildlife Refuge welcomes the community to visit, enjoy the mural, discover more of what the refuge has to offer and connect with this important Maui wetland,” says refuge manger Bret Wolfe.