Saving Koloa Camp

SUBHEAD: John Kruse, who was raised in Koloa, toils to save plantation rental houses for kapuna.  

By Lee Cataluna on 8 January 2012 for the Star Advertiser - 

Image above: One of the rental homes in Koloa that Grove Farms plans to tear down. From (

The houses aren't much to look at. Most are at least 90 years old, held together by peeling paint, rusty nails and the magic that keeps old houses going when there are people inside who love every creaking board. To some eyes, those old homes stand for all that is good about small town life.

Residents of the eight plantation homes in Koloa Camp on Kauai were given 120-day eviction notices in November. The landowner, Grove Farm, plans to knock down the houses to make room for a new subdivision with 50 prefabricated modular homes made in China. This story of old-timers fighting to stay in their humble homes is a classic Hawaii tale, but this one has an unusual character taking a lead role. Kepa Kruse, 29, has become a spokesman for the camp residents, many of whom are elderly and not given to protest signs and public meetings. Kruse set up the website and has asked pointed questions on behalf of the old folks at community events and in the media.

"Maybe I've emerged as a voice, but it's only out of respect for the elders here. They shouldn't have this done to them," Kruse said. Kruse grew up in the camp. His father, John Kruse, a crew member of early Hokule'a voyages, has lived there for decades. When Kepa Kruse entered Kamehameha Schools in the seventh grade, the little wooden house on the end of the unpaved road was where he returned for holidays and summer breaks from the dorms. When he later left UH-Manoa to pursue a career in Hollywood, Koloa camp became a spiritual home base for him. The rain on the metal roof, the doors with the skeleton keys that were never locked -- Kruse could handle the city craziness if he thought of the quiet, starry nights back home.

 A photogenic and well-spoken surfer, Kruse won roles in the television series "North Shore" and "Off the Map" and most recently was in the Danny Glover film "Age of Dragons" and the independent film "Knots." His album "Coconut Wireless" won a Hoku award in 2011. As a protester and activist, he has taken an unusually diplomatic position on the Koloa Camp issue. "I'm not just throwing stones. I'm more for coming up with innovative solutions. One thing we want people to know is we're not against the project.

The project itself is a good idea. Just not here. Energy-efficient, a sense of community ... we want what they want. I'd love to make this community better." Rent for the camp houses is about $700 a month. Though the residents have been offered first chance at purchasing one of the affordable units in the new development -- to be called Waihohonu -- Kruse worries that none of the families could cover mortgages, which he figures would be close to $1,700 a month. "How is a 70-year-old going to qualify for a 30-year mortgage?" he asks.

Residents of Koloa Camp have been meeting every week to discuss the situation. The next meeting with representatives of Grove Farm is scheduled for Jan. 19 at 7 p.m. at the Koloa Community Center. Kruse has postponed his return to Hollywood so he can see this situation through. "Maybe there's a way for the community to work together so that everybody gets what they want," Kruse said. "Every year they have the Koloa Plantation Days celebration and there's crowds of people spending money. And here, this old plantation camp, one of the last, they're destroying the very thing they're celebrating."

See also:
Island Breath: Save Koloa Monkeypod Trees 1/11/08
Island Breath: Stacy Wrong's personal touch 3/12/08


Rhiannon said...

home sweet home.
going to make a blog post soon, will post link here when I post

Rhiannon said...

I hope youi dont mind but Im leaving a link to my blog post here:

Scott Goold said...

Keep working hard everyone ... this is an important issue to the 13 residents in the eight homes as well as to the historical preservation of Koloa and Kaua'i. See article in today's Garden Island:

O‘ahu developer offers Koloa Camp alternative

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