NAALEHU — The Ka‘u community has worked for decades to protect their 80-mile coast to honor their kupuna and empower future generations to perpetuate their lifestyle.
The first conservation easement purchased by the county under the Public Access, Open Space, and Natural Resources Preservation 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 of the 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 trail association, state 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.
“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 PONC program granted $4 million and the Legacy Land Conservation Program granted $2 million to the association 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 about $1.3 million in value.
“We are humbled to have been part of this community effort to conserve these special lands,” said Byron Levkulich, a board member of Ka‘u Mahi LLC, the seller of the land.
The 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 more than 6,000 acres of coastline, cultural sites and pastureland and connect more than 10 miles of the Ala Kahakai trail.
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.