Waikakuu Forest

HILO, Hawaii: A full agenda was before the Public Access, Open Space and Natural Resources Preservation Commission‎ meeting in Hilo on Monday.

The commission is charged with prioritizing a list of privately owned land parcels on Hawaii Island that may be purchased by the county for public use, if the owner is willing.

A number of items will be considered by the commission in the coming months… like a parcel near Wailoa State Park that would compliment the Hilo Bayfront Trails project, or potential purchases in the Vacationland area of Kapoho, near the Wai Opae Marine Reserve… and of course, there were a number of coastal lands in North Kohala brought before the commission… but one of the most interesting proposals was submitted by South Kona councilwoman Brenda Ford, concerning land in Waikaku’u Forest.

Ford says its a treasured land, home to large, old growth ohia trees; what she says could possibly the oldest living angiosperms in Hawaii … maybe even the world. The parcels are up for sale and are in danger of being developed.

On Monday, Ford was hoping that the commission would indicate a shared interest in her effort to prioritize the purchase of the land on an emergency basis, which would give the council their blessing to act.

Last Tuesday, the full council passed Resolution 256-12, which authorizes the Finance Director to initiate any funding mechanisms required for the acquisition of the parcels, which could include Federal and State grants, private grants and any other funding sources that may be used.

The only problem: the land was never identified as a priority by the Open Space Commission, which usually provides the council with a prioritized list to follow. Some councilmembers were unsure of Ford’s plan.

Although Ford was able to convince the council, she did not have as much luck with the commission, which will act on the Waikakuu proposal in accordance with their usual procedures. The county finance department says that means these lands will be given the same consideration as any other lands being proposed.

The open space commission will meet again in September, and the priority list will begin to take shape at that time.