Under the reign of Kaka‘alaneo, Maui was divided into twelve moku (districts.) These included Ka‘anapali, Lahaina, Hāmākuapoko, Hāmākualoa, Koʻolau, Hana, Kīpahulu, Kaupo, Kahikinui, Honua‘ula, Wailuku and Kula.
The twelve ancient districts of Maui were later reduced to four under the Civil Code of 1859, which consolidated all East Maui districts into one.
Later the Session Laws of 1909 regained two districts, which established a total of six districts. Under the Session Laws of 1909, Hāmākualoa and Hāmākuapoko were joined to make the modern district of Makawao (‘forest beginning.’)
Makawao consists of four traditional Hawaiian political districts: Honua’ula to the south, along the leeward slopes of Haleakala; Kula, which overlooks the Wailuku District and the Isthmus lands; and Hāmākuapoko and Hāmākualoa along the windward slopes of Haleakalā. (Cultural Surveys)
In traditional times, the area would have been covered in native forest including koa, ʻōhiʻa lehua, ti and kukui. Logging in the mid- to late-1800s resulted in the elimination of majority of the forest trees, which was later followed by cattle.
Clearing of the forest trees for sugarcane by Europeans in the mid- to late-1800s had altered the environment. Ranching was to eventually dominate all land use in the upland slopes of Haleakala.
Clear cutting and burning of sandalwood continued well into the mid-1800s, which greatly impacted the landscaping of the area.
By the 1870s, the Waihou Springs (‘new water’) area was probably cleared pasture land, with little to no native vegetation. The only tree indicated in the vicinity of Waihou is a ‘lone koa tree.’
The Makawao Forest Reserve was established in 1908. The forest reserve was sanctioned off for watershed protection and included approximately 2,093 acres.
The introduction of gorse as hedging material in the early-1900s added to the rapidly declining native forest. Gorse is a spiny, evergreen exotic shrub which can grow up to 15-feet tall and 30-feet in diameter.
In a single gorse plant, there can be hundreds of pods which eventually burst and expel thousands of gorse seeds. By the mid-1950s, the gorse had spread uncontrollably, killing the majority of the remaining native plants.
In an effort to eliminate the gorse, a state territorial prison camp was also established in 1953 located near the present Olinda Homesteads. Low security prisoners were brought to Maui from overcrowded O’ahu prisons, with the primary purpose of clearing the overgrown gorse areas.
The Olinda prison facility was located on 114 acres of Haleakala land and initially housed approximately 30 prisoners. In addition to clearing the gorse, prisoners grew vegetables for shipment to Honolulu.
In the early-1950s, Olinda prisoners had also undertaken the job of linking the road to Kahakuloa with the highway that extends beyond Lahaina, making it possible to circle clear around the West Maui block of mountains.
By the mid-1950s, the majority of the gorse had been eliminated. (The old Olinda minimum-security prison was transformed in the late-1980s to a refuge for endangered endemic birds.)
Unlike most Forest Reserves established by Hawai‘i’s Territorial government in the early-20th century, the land that was set aside for Waihou Spring Forest Reserve in 1909 was open grazing land rather than forested land.
The Territorial Government initially set aside land for the Forest Reserve on June 5, 1909, the object of which was to protect the sources of Waihou Spring, cited at the time as “one of the very few permanent springs on the western slope of Mt. Haleakalā”.
Even though the Reserve was created to protect the source of the spring at Waihou, the spring had already been tunneled and its water was being piped to the lower reaches of the adjacent Haleakalā Ranch to water livestock.
Once bare pasture land and in response to the declining remnant forest, the State Forestry folks began a tree-planting program. Haleakalā Ranch was contracted to build cattle fencing for the Reserve in 1913 and the Maui Agricultural Company began tree planting in 1919.
Tree planting consisted primarily of eucalyptus, various pine and tropical ash. As a secondary measure, the tree planting also served to keep the gorse weed down by shading it out of existence. It is now well forested with both native and non-native tree species.
The ‘ōpe‘ape‘a (Hawaiian hoary bat) is commonly seen both within the boundaries of Waihou Spring Forest Reserve and also in the area surrounding the Reserve. This species roosts in trees and has often been associated with non-native.
Forest birds that may be seen in the area include the ‘amakihi, ʻapapane, ‘alauahio and occasionally ‘i‘iwi. Historical records of sightings within close proximity of the Forest Reserve include two endangered forest birds: ‘ākohekohe and ‘ō‘ū.
Today, the major agricultural activities in up country Maui and are livestock grazing, truck farming, flower production and orchard crops. The forest reserve has been used in recent time for recreation and hunting.
Pig hunting is still popular within the forest reserve, although the number of pigs have declined in recent years as a result of residential developments.
Additionally, changes in weather conditions over the last fifty years have affected the flow of water in the area and majority of the gulches and natural springs are dry.
At approximately 186 acres, Waihou Spring Forest Reserve is relatively small but is a popular day-use area. It is close to residential neighborhoods and has a well-used hiking trail. (Lots of information here is from Cultural Surveys and DLNR.)