Coastal Property Added To Lapakahi State Historical Park

Today, the State of Hawai’i, Department of Land and Natural Resources, Division of State Parks announced the addition of 17 shoreline acres to Lapakahi State Historical Park in North Kohala on the Island of Hawai’i, located in an area traditionally known as Nu’uanu.

The acquisition was assisted by a diverse public-private partnership of Kohala community organizations, the Trust for Public Land (a national non-profit land conservation organization), the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration, the State Office of Planning’s Coastal Zone Management Program (OP-CZMP), the State Legislature, and the State Legacy Land Conservation Program. The purchase protects dozens of significant precontact Hawaiian cultural sites associated with the cultural and archaeological complex within Lapakahi State Historical Park, and protects and provides access to the adjacent Lapakahi Marine Life Conservation District, which serves as habitat for over 116 marine species. The $2.35 million purchase of the land was made possible by matching grants from the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA’s) Coastal Estuarine Land Conservation Program (CELCP)and the State Legacy Land Conservation Program.

The land had been threatened by residential development before The Trust for Public Land was able to negotiate an agreement with a private landowner to add it to the Park. “The Kohala community is truly blessed that this land, this treasure, has been protected from development, and saved for our children and grandchildren. Protection of Nu’uanu demonstrates how the Kohala community is putting into action the Kohala Community Development Plan which states that Kohala is a historic preservation community,” stated Fred Cachola, member of Maika’i Kamakani ‘O Kohala.

Half of the purchase price was provided by NOAA’s CELCP fund, a competitive federal program, which ranked this project #1 in the nation among 57 competing projects from other states. “The national #1 ranking is a testament to this property’s unique cultural and natural resources, which are invaluable to Hawai’i and to our entire nation,” stated Allen Tom, Regional Director, Office of National Marine Sanctuaries, NOAA.

The CELCP program was created eight years ago to protect coastal and estuarine lands, and it provides state and local governments with matching funds to acquire land for the protection of open space and conservation of resources. The CELCP program is administered through OP-CZMP. The Trust for Public Land (TPL), OPCZMP, and the Division of State Parks worked together to apply for the CELCP funding. “It was our office’s pleasure to work with the Trust for Public Land and other stakeholders to protect this cultural and natural legacy,” stated Jesse Souki, Interim Director of the State Office of Planning.

U.S. Senator Daniel K. Inouye noted that. “The acquisition of Lapakahi ensures the preservation of the proud Native Hawaiian tradition of healing and the beautiful Kohala coastline for generations to enjoy. These difficult economic times require greater creativity and partnership to ensure continued conservation of these special treasures. We cannot afford to wait for a better day—too much will be lost. I am pleased with the steady federal investment and partnership in so many of these successful endeavors. They must continue.” U.S. Senator Daniel K. Akaka said: “These irreplaceable pre-contact Hawaiian cultural sites provide a window into the vibrant history and future of these islands. Generations to come will understand with even greater appreciation the commitment and foresight made here today to preserve these unique and valued coastal lands in perpetuity against competing development interests.”

“I have long been a fan of NOAA’s CELCP program, which has helped to preserve from development so many precious coastal areas in Hawai’i, including Honu’apo on Hawai’i Island, Mu’olea on Maui, and Pupukea-Paumalu on O’ahu. One of my first funding requests as a new member of Congress in 2007 was for the Lapakahi acquisition. I am thrilled that this acquisition was at the top of NOAA’s list and that the area will be preserved intact for the enjoyment of future generations. In addition to the leadership provided by the Trust for Public Land and various Kohala community organizations, this project involved leadership and support at the federal, state, and local levels,” commented Congresswoman Mazie Hirono.

The other half of the purchase price was funded by the State’s Land Conservation Fund, created in 2005 by the State Legislature, and funded by 10% of the real estate conveyance tax. “The Land Conservation Fund provides a small core of local matching dollars that allows the State, counties, and other non-profits to leverage significant federal, private, and other funds. The fund is an important gateway for federal conservation dollars,” stated Dale Bonar, Chair of the Legacy Land Conservation Commission. The Senate President and Speaker of the House consult with the non-partisan Legacy Land Conservation Commission on an annual basis regarding the projects recommended for funding by the Commission. Speaker of the House Calvin Say commented, “On behalf of myself and Senate President Shan Tsutsui, the Legislature is proud to have had the vision to create this vital source of matching funding to protect special lands as a legacy for the future generations of Hawai’i’s people.”

From 2006 to 2010, the Legacy Land Conservation Program has issued $16.9 million in awards, and attracted $37.8 million in matching federal, county and private funds towards the protection of over 7,215 acres of cultural, natural, agricultural, and recreational resource lands. Funded projects leverage 70% matching funds from federal, county, or other private sources. On average, for every State dollar spent, $1.14 in federal matching funds are leveraged.

The parcel will be added to the Lapakahi State Historical Park, which is listed in the National and Hawai’i Registers of Historic Places as an excellent example of a leeward coastal settlement that spans a 600 year period from circa A.D. 1300 to the early 1900s. The 17-acre parcel has significant cultural sites that are part of this larger Lapakahi complex and the potential for development of the parcel under private ownership resulted in its recent listing as one of Hawai’i’s Most Endangered Places by Honolulu Magazine and the Historic Hawai’i Foundation.

“This parcel was surrounded on three sides by Lapakahi State Historical Park with the fourth side being adjacent to the Lapakahi Marine Life Conservation District. It has been the State’s desire for many years to acquire this property and include it within the park as part of the larger Lapakahi complex. The 17 acres are a vital piece of a cultural and biological landscape of the Kohala coastline, and we are thankful that future generations will have an opportunity to appreciate this cultural complex within its natural setting and to enjoy the open space and access to the shoreline,” stated William Aila, Jr., Director of the Department of Land and Natural Resources.

Lea Hong, Hawaiian Islands Program Director for the Trust for Public Land noted that: “Under President Obama’s leadership, funding for conservation programs like NOAA’s Coastal and Estuarine Land Conservation Program has increased, even in these difficult economic times. This bodes well for Hawai’i, even if Congress bans earmarks. Hawai’i’s natural and cultural resources are special, unique, and irreplaceable. As shown by Lapakahi’s #1 ranking, Hawai’i can compete extraordinarily well for federal conservation dollars.”

The Trust for Public Land is a national nonprofit organization dedicated to conserving land for people to enjoy as parks and open space. Since 1972, TPL has conserved nearly 3 million acres of land nationwide. In Hawai’i, TPL works side by side with land trusts, community groups and public agencies to protect lands important to the people of Hawai’i. TPL depends on the support of individuals, corporations, and foundations.