Preserving Mahukona on the Kohala Coast

This is a post full of good news…and a request for your support if the Kohala Coast and North Kohala is an area you love. Letʻs start with the video worth the 1,000 words that follow:

Video of Mahukona – 642 acres proposed for preservation. Video Credit: Mike Frailey Images

Mahukona Background: The Bumpy Road from Resort Project to Conservation Purchase

I think the first time I mentioned Mahukona in a blog post was in 2012 when over 7,000 acres in the Hawi, North Kohala area was being foreclosed. The bulk of the acreage was out towards Pololu Valley; however, 642 acres at Mahukona on the coast that you pass driving from Kohala Coast resorts up to Hawi was part of this sale. That 2012 blog post explained how despite community opposition, the then-owner managed to obtain zoning changes and entitlements to develop Mahukona as a resort.

Surety Kohala had created an entity to hold the 7,000 acres, Kohala Preserve Conservation Trust (KPCT). Questions of their sincerity aside, the name reflects the potential to put the agricultural lands into conservation easements…while pursuing a downsized version of the resort development that still made little market sense and was still not acceptable to the local community.

KPCT defaulted on a loan and in 2012 the 7,000 acres of Kohala property went back to the lender, and on the ground not much changed over the past eight years. Until now.

Agricultural lands acquired for farming and ranching

Aerial taken from above my 485-acre listing. Everything from here down to the highway plus acres and acres on both sides will be farmed and ranched rather than developed.

Last fall I met with the asset managers, who approached me as the listing agent for a 485-acre parcel in the middle of their holdings. Naturally I told them exactly what I thought. First, that the larger acreage plus my listing with its waterfalls and springs should stay with a single owner, perhaps as an agricultural park. Second, that the Mahukona parcels should go to a conservation entity. Selling the larger acreage might help the owner wait patiently for the slower timeline typical of a conservation purchase. That scenario is now unfolding:

  • My 485-acre listing has been sold to an individual who also acquired the 6,600 acres surrounding it, and whose plans do not include development — just farming, ranching, and forestry.
  • A major effort is now underway to raise the funds required to preserve Mahukona in perpetuity.

Why Preserving Mahukona is Important

Mahukona sunset

Mahukona sunset. Photo Credit: Mike Frailey Images

As I explain in other articles, the way conservation organizations and government programs determine which properties are priorities for preservation is by considering the significance of their conservation values. Mahukona has these qualities in spades. Here is the explanation from a template support letter prepared by Hawaiian Islands Land Trust on what a conservation purchase will achieve:

  • Permanently protect Māhukona’s prominent Hawaiian cultural landscape and the hundreds of ancient heiau and cultural sites still cared for by ʻohana and practitioners, while protecting the integrity and continuation of the area’s ongoing cultural and religious practices including but not limited to non-instrumental navigation and subsistence fishing practices.
  • Protect and provide restoration opportunities of Māhukona’s ʻIliahi (Santalum freycinetianum) habitat.
  • Maintain recreational use of the area’s trails and swimming areas.
  • Successfully complete a portion of the conservation corridor, connecting the protection of Lapakahi State Historical Park to the south to the County’s Kapaʻa Beach Park to the north, effectively contributing to the Kohala community’s vision for a conservation corridor and protection of scenic viewplanes as outlined in the North Kohala Community Development Plan.
  • Ensure the integrity and health of Māhukona’s ocean resources, including endemic and endangered marine species.

Appropriate Stewardship for the Mahukona Lands

Preserving significant properties involves more than just raising funds for their purchase. The ongoing stewardship and restoration is a major focus of conservation organizations such as HILT, but the funds available when the purchaser is a County or State entity have proven so far to be inadequate to the task. Even more critical in many cases is the question of who will take on this responsibility.

Mahukona North Kohala shoreline

Shoreline portion of the Mahukona lands, looking towards the bluff where Koʻa Holomoana, an important navigational heiau, is located.

Fortunately at Mahukona, you have an active stewardship ʻohana, including both lineal descendants (families from the area) and the non-profit Na Kālai Waʻa which is the educational organization supporting the voyaging canoe Makaliʻi and teaching the cultural practices of non-instrument navigation and open ocean voyaging.

Ways to Participate in the Initiative to Preserve Mahukona

Learning about Kohala Coast protection efforts

Last year members of the North Kohala community hosted Kohala Coast resort and subdivision residents on a field trip to understand coastal preservation efforts.

  • Sign the petition to indicate your support for the preservation of Mahukona.
  • Write a letter that HILT can include in its applications for Hawaii County PONC and State Legacy Land Commission funding. (I can send you a template and the address to email your letter)
  • Eventually, we will be looking for matching funds from the private donations. This is a multi-year process. If you want to make a donation now, consider one to Hawaiian Island Land Trust or Na Kalai Waʻa to support their work on this project.
  • Follow the hashtag #ProtectMahukona for updates on social media.
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