PONC mulls Kaloko trailhead purchase

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HILO — The commission charged with prioritizing county land purchases isn’t ready to commit to buying a popular Kaloko trailhead, despite advocates’ concerns the land could slip from the public’s hands.

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HILO — The commission charged with prioritizing county land purchases isn’t ready to commit to buying a popular Kaloko trailhead, despite advocates’ concerns the land could slip from the public’s hands.

The 21-acre lot off Hao Street that links up to miles of hiking paths in the Makaula-Ooma section of the Honuaula Forest Reserve has been nominated for purchase by Peoples Advocacy For Trails Hawaii, with support from North Kona Councilwoman Karen Eoff.

The property has been used for decades by hikers who traverse the private property to get to the public land. It’s a popular route to the forest reserve, although it doesn’t butt right up against it. Instead, hikers must cross a swath of at least one, and possibly two, adjoining properties.

“When I moved here in 1980, one of the first things people told me to do was hike this trail,” Eoff told the Public Access, Open Space and Natural Resources Preservation Commission on Monday. “Everybody’s probably been trespassing for the 30 years since I got here and probably before that.”

The trailhead land was placed on the market in July and is priced at $579,000. The land is zoned agriculture with a minimum lot size of 10 acres, and a significant portion already is dedicated as a forest reserve.

“Time is of the essence,” Eoff said, adding that the owner is 90 years old and trying to sell the property in order to set her estate in order.

Eoff and PATH Executive Director Tina Clothier told the commission that it’s possible to get easements across the other two properties, even though they aren’t for sale. There is also a trail loop on the Hao Street parcel that hikers use who don’t want the more arduous hikes into the forest reserve, Eoff said.

The commission, however, was reluctant to agree to purchase a property without it going through the proper vetting process, although PONC funds have been used in the past under County Council direction without the property being prioritized.

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“Usually, at the start of the year, we accept all the nominations and at the end of the year, we prioritize them,” said commissioner Rene Siracusa.

The money comes from a charter-mandated earmark of property taxes. The balance available stood at $6.2 million as of Jan. 5.

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