What happened to the Big Island of Hawaii's Flumin' Da Ditch tour? An update.by: Chris Bailey
posted: Thu Jan 28, 2010 at 10:57 AM
While the legalities of the transition are complicated, trustees have been selected and legal counsel hired to aid in the process. Surety Kohala aims to have a secondary role in the Kohala Ditch.
“It’s a great opportunity for the community to acquire something that was previously in private hands,” says Shontell.
Of course, taking over the Kohala Ditch will be a responsibility. Moving forward, the fledgling nonprofit is concerned with finding a steady stream of revenue so it can maintain the ditch.
One potential source of money is ecotourism. Flumin’ Da Ditch was a major source for ditch maintenance and an economic boon for the area. In its heyday, the ride accommodated as many as 22,000 visitors a year.
In an ironic twist, the last remnant of Flumin’ Dat Ditch’s parent company Kamuela Kayak Co.—a van that once ferried guests to the Flumin’ Da Ditch ride—was purchased in a post-bankruptcy fire sale by Surety Kohala. It now hauls Surety workers to the ditch site.
A few individuals have shown interest in restarting the tours, says Flynn. Unfortunately, bringing the ride back isn’t as simple as purchasing a couple of kayaks. Further geological surveys must be conducted, and legal hurdles cleared. At this point it’s too early to tell when and if the Flumin’ operation will return.
“To recreate that experience would be neat, but none of this will work if we don’t make the ditch work for agriculture,” says Flynn.
The group is mainly focused on keeping North Kohala an agriculturally viable part of the Big Island. The Kohala Ditch Steering Committee has supported the development of the Hoea Agricultural Park—a verdant 500-acre stretch of land that will provide space for farmers to grow crops and raise livestock without the large overhead of doing it independently.
Lance Caspary has become the poster boy for the new agriculture park, the first of hopefully many local farmers who will utilize the acreage. His Kohala Crawfish Farm once specialized in raising prawns and crawfish, as well as other items that required a constant flow of water to thrive, including ornamental fish and taro.
Caspary’s business became an instant casualty of the earthquake. At the time of the quake he raised about 60,000 prawns. Caspary is now struggling to maintain a single brood in a humble quarter-acre pond.
“I’m not even sure this is going to last, to tell you the truth,” he says, on the lookout for toads and dragonfly larvae. Both species are natural predators of prawns. “We’re still hard at work. It’s not a done deal.”
Still, the prospect of an agriculture park has given him a fresh start. Despite the uphill battle, Caspary—much like the community—remains optimistic. He stands over his pond and knows how far he’s come. He’s got water.
“This is good. This is great. This is awesome,” he says.
UPDATE, Jan. 2009:
We're happy to report that the Kohala Ditch's water flow is now as vigorous as it has ever been. Says Cheri Gallo of the the Kohala Ditch Steering Committee, "The ditch is running strong. It's full of water to the very end."
Want to purchase a "Save the Kohala Ditch" t-shirt?
You can still purchase an official Kohala Ditch t-shirt, with proceeds going toward continuing restoration and maintenance efforts. Click here for more information.
Photos: David Croxford (pg. 1/bottom, 4/top - views of the Kohala Ditch), Bill Shontell (pg. 1/top Flumin' Da Ditch Tour; 2, 3 - construction workers repair one of the destroyed flumes), Cheri Gallo (pg. 4 - Hawi residents celebrate the dedication of the Kohala Ditch plaque)
Check out these related HawaiiMagazine.com posts:
What happened to Flumin' Da Ditch kayak tours?
Savin’ the Ditch. Where can I get a Kohala Ditch t-shirt?
Tubing the ditch on Kauai