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Ka‘ehu Wetland Acquisition Complete

May 2, 2012, 9:10 AM HST · Updated May 2, 11:00 AM
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Paukūkalo, Maui. Photo courtesy of The Trust for Public Land.

By Wendy Osher

The County of Maui completed the $996,000 purchase of 64 acres of undeveloped coastal wetlands at Ka‘ehu Bay in Paukukalo.

The Trust for Public Land worked with the county to negotiate the deal. It is the same national non-profit land trust organization that had previously worked with the administration to protect Mu’ole’a Point in East Maui in 2005.

Ka‘ehu is the last open space between Waiehu and Waihee and is used for cultural groups and practitioners. There is also an effort underway to eventually restore taro patches and fishponds in the area.

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The purchase was made possible through a public-private partnership between the County of Maui, The Trust for Public Land, Kauahea, Inc., and the Neighborhood Place of Wailuku, as well as community partners and individuals.

The property fronts Ka‘ehu Bay, and includes over 4,500 feet of shoreline between Waiehu and ‘Īao Streams.  It is located adjacent to the Paukūkalo Hawaiian Homestead and near the Waiehu Kou Hawaiian Homestead subdivisions.

The property is home to numerous Hawaiian cultural sites, including habitation structures, agricultural terraces, former fishponds, shrines, and burials.  It is also a popular coastal area for surfing, fishing, and recreational activities.

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Authorities say the coastal wetlands are a potential future habitat for endangered Hawaiian waterbirds such as the ae‘o (Hawaiian stilt), ‘alae ke‘oke‘o (Hawaiian coot), and koloa maoli (Hawaiian duck).

“We have been fortunate to work with the Paukūkalo and Waiehu communities, The Trust for Public Land and the Maui County Council to purchase this invaluable coastal land and save it from proposed development,” said Maui Mayor Alan Arakawa in a statement.

“Our local communities are especially dependent on our shorelines for subsistence, recreation and well-being so it is important that the coastal wetlands at Ka‘ehu Bay will now remain a priceless cultural and natural resource on Maui for generations to come,” said Mayor Arakawa.

Council Member Michael Victorino, who has been a vocal advocate of the purchase, said he was honored to have been part of the historic acquisition of the rare coastal property.

“It was very gratifying to have been a government partner with a grassroots movement to prevent this parcel from development, and instead, returning it to nurturing cultural caretakers. I am grateful for the tremendous support from both my colleagues on the Maui County Council, as well as the many citizens who worked in concert to ensure that a gem like Ka‘ehu Bay be preserved, protected and kept pristine forever,” said Victorino.

Kauahea Inc., led by Kumu Hōkūlani Holt, supported recent efforts to acquire the land.  The non-profit group is organizing community grass roots efforts to manage and restore the natural and cultural resources on the property.  “We hope that the community and individuals who love the land will work together with us to heal and restore the resources on the land for future generations,” said Kumu Holt.

The Neighborhood Place of Wailuku is another advocate for preservation of the shoreline property. The group offers cultural education and land stewardship programs to Maui youth and their families on eight acres, as part of its Cultural Strengthening Program.

The Neighborhood Place of Wailuku has already restored two of the springs on the property, worked to remove invasive species, began a native plant greenhouse, replanted kalo, and provided landscape maintenance through its programs.

“NPW is ecstatic that the constant threat of development of the land has been removed,” said Neighborhood Place of Wailuku founder, Venus Rosete-Medeiros.

“The land is a resource that helps restore and heal the families that are able to use the land. We hope the land will continue as a healing resource for our program participants and the broader community. I am pleased that our County has finally recognized Ka‘ehu as a cultural and historical treasure for our community, especially for our children and generations to come,” said Rosete-Medeiros.

Duke Sevilla, one of the founders of Hui O Nā Wai ‘Ehā and a long-time Paukūkalo community member, has hopes of restoring the taro patches and fishponds at Ka‘ehu.  His father, A.B. Sevilla, gave him the idea four decades ago.  “I am glad that it is finally coming to a reality. I hope that the citizens of Maui County will help in the restoration and see that this is a part of all of our legacy,” said Sevilla.

The Ka‘ehu acquisition at Paukūkalo marks The Trust for Public Land’s 26th completed project in Hawai‘i, where it has conserved more than 40,314 acres of land throughout the islands. On Maui, it helped to expand the Haleakalā National Park at Ka‘apahu, and assisted the County in conserving Mū‘olea Point in Hāna.

Michael Spalding, Maui resident and a member of the Trust for Public Land’s Hawaiian Islands Program Advisory Council credited the various agencies and community partners in coming together to make the acquisition a reality.

“As a realtor and someone who loves the ocean, I have been aware of the threat of development of this land for some time, and am very happy it has been saved for the community and that it will be there for future generations of surfers, fishermen, and local families. The reduced price is an excellent price for 64 acres of beachfront land,” said Spalding.

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