(BIVN) – The 2,317-acre Waikapuna land parcel in Kaʻū has become the first conservation easement purchased by Hawaiʻi County under the PONC program.
This joint media release was issued on Monday:
The Ala Kahakai Trail Association (ATA), State of Hawai‘i Department of Land and Natural Resources’ Legacy Land Conservation Program (LLCP), Ka‘ū Mahi LLC, and The Trust Public Land, announced today the voluntary sale and acquisition of 2,317 acres known as Waikapuna located in Kāhilipalinui and Kāhilipali‘iki ahupua‘a, Ka‘ū Moku, Hawai‘i Island. The County of Hawai‘i’s Public Access, Open Space, and Natural Resources Preservation (PONC) Program granted $4 million, and the State LLCP granted $2 million, to ATA to purchase the land (facilitated by The Trust for Public Land), which is now encumbered by a perpetual conservation easement owned by the County restricting the land to agricultural and cultural preservation uses. This is the first conservation easement purchased by the County under the PONC program.
“This purchase conserves over 2.3 miles of the Ala Kahakai National Historic Trail or ala loa, the ancient fishing village of Waikapuna, and hundreds of intact pre‐contact Native Hawaiian cultural sites. This land holds special meaning for Native Hawaiians as it is the place where noted Hawaiian scholar Mary Kawena Pukui spent her summers as a child, and where she learned the traditions and knowledge that formed the basis of her book, ‘The Polynesian Family System in Ka‘ū.’ As the new steward of the land, ATA can preserve both our ancient history and the paniolo heritage of ranching in Ka‘ū,” said Keoni Fox, Director, Ala Kahakai Trail Association. “We look forward to working closely with Ka‘ū families to mālama this special ‘āina and cultural legacy for future generations.”
The purchase price for the property was $6 million, with the landowner donating approximately $1.3 million in value. “We want to thank the landowner Ka’ū Mahi, LLC for being patient and working closely with us on this conservation purchase. We could not have conserved this agricultural and cultural treasure for the people of Hawai‘i without the landowner’s generosity and flexibility,” said Lea Hong, Hawaiian Islands State Director, The Trust for Public Land. “We are humbled to have been part of this community effort to conserve these special lands,” stated Byron Levkulich, Board Member, Ka’ū Mahi, LLC, the seller of the land.
In addition to protecting important cultural sites and scenic portions of the Ala Kahakai National Historic Trail, the property also includes sea cliffs and caves that are nesting areas for seabirds like the Noio or Hawaiian black noddy. “Waikapuna has it all – cultural significance and incredible coastal natural resources. We are pleased that the Legacy Land Conservation Program contributed to the preservation of this land. The Legacy Program has created a tremendous legacy for Hawai‘i in its nearly 15years,” said Suzanne Case, Chair of the Dept. of Land and Natural Resources.
The Ka‘ū community has been working for decades to protect their beloved 80 mile coast to honor their kūpuna and empower future generations to perpetuate their rural, subsistence lifestyle. The Waikapuna purchase is the first among five conservation projects to close, including Kawala (conservation easement only), Manaka‘a Fishing Village, Kiolaka‘a, and Kaunamano, which are pending. All five projects would conserve over 6,000 acres of coastline, cultural sites, and pasture land, and connect over 10 miles of the Ala Kahakai National Historic Trail.
About the County of Hawai‘i’s Public Access, Open Space, and Natural Resources Preservation Fund
The Public Access, Open Space, and Natural Resources Preservation Funds is used to acquire land or easements for public outdoor recreation and education, including mauka/makai access, historic or culturally important areas and sites, natural resource, significant habitat or ecosystems, forests, beaches, coastal areas, natural beautify, agricultural lands, and watersheds.