Wednesday, Dec. 06, 2023|
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A large tract of land along the Pepeekeo coast is being considered for Hawaii County acquisition and preservation.
Through the county’s Public Access, Open Space and Natural Resources Preservation Commission, the county is able to use real property tax revenue to acquire land in order to preserve public access to beaches or mountains or generate opportunities for education or outdoor recreation.
The latest parcel to be considered for PONC acquisition is a 38-acre parcel in Pepeekeo stretching along the shore from the Wai‘a‘ama Stream to the south to the Honua Ola facility to the north. The parcel was listed as the PONC’s eighth-highest priority acquisition target in a 2021 report.
According to the PONC listing, the commission anticipates the parcel could still be used for fishing, hiking and scenic enjoyment after acquisition, while also enabling conservationists to restore the once-abundant hala groves in the area.
The listing adds that the local Makahanaloa Fishing Association is willing to partner with the county by applying for grant funding and maintaining the land after its acquisition. To this end, the MFA has submitted a stewardship plan to the county envisioning how the land’s resources can be protected.
The property currently is owned by the Henry J. Correa Trust, which submitted written testimony to a County Council committee meeting Tuesday acknowledging that it is “willing to have a conversation about selling” the land. According to real property tax records, the value of the parcel has hovered between $1.5 million and $1.9 million between 2005 and 2021.
Hamakua Councilwoman Heather Kimball, who introduced a resolution at Tuesday’s meeting of the council’s Legislative Approvals and Acquisitions Committee authorizing the county finance director to proceed with acquiring the parcel, called the land “a truly magical place,” and thanked Pepeekeo residents for supporting its preservation.
MFA President Blake McNaughton said shoreline access in Pepeekeo has degraded over the last 20 years, with only about 20% of the shoreline being kept in a walkable condition, despite public access easements.
“This community envisions a vibrant shoreline that is managed as a shared resource,” McNaughton explained in written testimony. “Residents would be able to walk the paths again … lawai‘a would be able to harvest its waters and manage their resources to provide … enough fish for the community to sustain itself.
“The management of this area could not fall to a better community-based effort of old and new residents,” McNaughton concluded.
Other residents echoed McNaughton, urging the county to acquire the land.
“I connect with this special place because I come from a family of fishermen and women,” wrote North Hilo resident and county Recreation Director Lauren Kamei. “I hear about wonderful stories during plantation days where they would go to these shoreline places and feed their families. Now these places have been purchased by private land owners and have cut off our communities from these practices and lifestyle.”
“Today, our shoreline is a precious commodity as many developers want to build on it, then sell it to the highest bidder,” wrote Pepeekeo resident Wanda Louis. “Our shoreline needs protecting so that generations can share in the building of family values, not to mention endless memories they will have. … Our shoreline is one of the last natural assets that feeds our family.”
The committee on Tuesday unanimously voted to recommend that the full council pass Kimball’s resolution.
Email Michael Brestovansky at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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