My Turn: A positive consequence of a conflict of interest

Good things happen unexpectedly! There is a positive consequence of Planning Director Zendo Kern’s conflict of interest. The conflict was caused because Kern was the owner’s representative for the Campbell/Clapp Trust before the Leeward Planning Commission and then he signed the Tentative Plat Approval for this owner days after being the mayor’s nominee for Planning Director. Having this conflict exposed, we are grateful that the Planning Department has now reopened the subdivision rezoning for the Campbell/Clapp Property.

The Kaloko/Ha’o Street trail crosses three properties before connecting to the lower trails of the state-owned Makaula O’oma section of the Honua’ula Forest Reserve; the Campbell/Clapp property is one of these properties. Kaloko neighbors, friends, avid hikers and mountain bikers have requested that the historic trail should be preserved for public use, surveyed, and mapped as part of the subdivision review and public comment process.

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We have submitted the Kaloko Trail to the Public Access, Open Space Commission (PONC) in the hopes it will be short-listed for acquisition by the 2% Land Fund. There are very few trails in Kona, and the Kaloko Trail goes through the unique cloud forest habitat, which is diverse in unique plant life. The Nun’s orchids were blooming recently. The cool air at 2,800 feet is refreshing even in the hottest of Kona summer days and the trail is great for a recreational hike or bike and a full nature immersion just minutes from Kona town.

In the mid-1920s, Pu’uwa’awa’a ranch owners wanted to raise cattle but had no water source, because their land is entirely in a dry forest. An agreement was made with Palani ranch to run a 3- inch galvanized pipe from their well on the south side of Hualalai, northward across the entire mountain at about 3000 feet elevation, to their watering station near the Pu’uwa’awa’a cinder cone. Quite an amazing accomplishment. The two parties acquired an easement to build a section of the trail that crosses land that in modern time became residentially developed, as the Kaloko subdivision.

Grant Miller (Bikeworks owner) and I designed the entire trail system in the Forest Reserve as an extension from this small segment crossing private land, but included in the design a second, direct entrance into the reserve at the end of Makahi Street, the next street up above Ha’o Street. The Makahi Street trail is steep, has lots of roots and is less accessible to seniors, kids and mountain bikers. It links to the upper trails in the Forest Reserve. The three previous private landowners did not object to the public using this old historic trail for the past 30-plus years.

In the last two years, one of the three private parcels was sold and the new owner has placed a no trespassing sign on Ha’o Street. He intends to fence it off and remove it from use by the public forever. We are hoping that the county will purchase a Public Access Easement with 2% Land Funds from these owners and would appreciate your support of the trail acquisition by writing a letter to the Public Access, Open Space and Natural Resources Commission (PONC) to Maxine.Cutler@hawaiicounty.gov.

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For more information on the Kaloko Trail as submitted to the Public Access, Open Space and Natural Resources Commission (PONC) viusit https://debbiehecht.com/2021/02/26/acquisition-of-the-kaloko-trail-by-hawaii-countys-public-access-open-space-and-natural-resources-commission-ponc/.

Jeff McDevitt, MD, is PATH Head of Trail Building/Maintenance, and a resident of Kailua-Kona.