NAALEHU — The Ka‘u community has been working for decades to protect their beloved 80-mile coast to honor their kupuna and empower future generations to perpetuate their rural, subsistence lifestyle.
The first conservation easement purchased by the county under the PONC program, announced Monday, will ensure that happens.
“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,” said Keoni Fox, director, Ala Kahakai Trail Association. “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‘u.’”
The Ala Kahakai Trail Association, State of Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources’ Legacy Land Conservation Program, Ka‘u Mahi LLC, and The Trust Public Land, announced the voluntary sale and acquisition of 2,317 acres known as Waikapuna located in Kahilipalinui and Kahilipaliiki ahupuaa, Ka‘u Moku on Hawaii.
“As the new steward of the land, ATA can preserve both our ancient history and the paniolo heritage of ranching in Ka‘u,” Fox added.
The county’s PONC — Public Access, Open Space, and Natural Resources Preservation — program granted $4 million and the state LLCP granted $2 million to ATA to purchase the land.
It was facilitated by The Trust for Public Land, and is now encumbered by a perpetual conservation easement owned by the county restricting the land to agricultural and cultural preservation uses.
The purchase price for the property was $6 million, with the landowner donating approximately $1.3 million in value.
“We are humbled to have been part of this community effort to conserve these special lands,” stated Byron Levkulich, Board Member, Ka’u Mahi, LLC, the seller of the land.
The Waikapuna purchase is the first among five conservation projects to close, including Kawala (conservation easement only), Manakaa Fishing Village, Kiolakaa, 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.
“We look forward to working closely with Ka‘u families to malama this special aina and cultural legacy for future generations,” Fox said.
PONC funds are used to acquire land or easements for public outdoor recreation and education. The Legacy Land Conservation Program provides grants to community organizations and government agencies that strive to purchase and protect land that shelters exceptional, unique, threatened, and endangered resources.
“We want to thank the landowner Ka’u Mahi, LLC for being patient and working closely with us on this conservation purchase,” said Lea Hong, Hawaiian Islands state director, The Trust for Public Land. “We could not have conserved this agricultural and cultural treasure for the people of Hawaii without the landowner’s generosity and flexibility.”