Lapakahi State Historical Park Addition Top Priority for NOAA

A North Kohala land conservation project adjacent to Lapakahi State Historical Park is the top funding priority of a federal program and will receive $1.25 million in the next fiscal year, The Trust for Public Land- Hawai’i, the State Office of Planning’s Coastal Zone Management Program, and the Department of Land and Natural Resources announced today. The money will be used to purchase 17 acres of privately owned shoreline land next to the Park’s southern border.

The funds will come from the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA’s) Coastal Estuarine Land Conservation Program (CELCP), which rated the Lapakahi project as the top priority among 57 potential projects. The CELCP program was created seven years ago to protect coastal and estuarine lands, and it provides state and local governments with matching funds. The local CELCP program is administered through the State Office of Planning. The Trust for Public Land (TPL) and the Office of Planning worked together to apply for the CELCP funding.

“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,” said Abbey Mayer, Director of the Office of Planning. “It was a pleasure working with The Trust for Public Land to protect this incredible place and its history for future generations.”

Over the last several years, TPL has helped DLNR’s Division of State Parks to raise funds to acquire the 17-acre privately owned shoreline parcel that is surrounded on three sides by the Lapakahi State Historical Park, located on Hawai’i Island. The property is rich with cultural sites and burials, and was recently listed as one of Hawai’i’s Most Endangered Places by Honolulu Magazine and the Historic Hawai’i Foundation. The property is next to the state’s Lapakahi Marine Life Conservation District, home to over 116 marine species.

“We are thankful to the Trust for Public Lands for their invaluable assistance. This acquisition for Lapakahi State Historical Park will preserve significant cultural resources and maintain the open space along this stretch of North Kohala shoreline for future generations,” said Laura H.Thielen, DLNR chairperson.

In response to community concerns regarding threatened residential development of the property, TPL negotiated an agreement with the landowner to buy the property and include it within Lapakahi State Historical Park. TPL also successfully assisted the State in obtaining a $1.25 million grant from the State’s Legacy Land Conservation Program. The state funds will be matched by the $1.25 million from the CELCP program, so State funds will cover only 50% of the value.

The Legacy Land Conservation Program is funded by 10% of the State’s conveyance tax, which is collected from sellers of land when property is sold. During the 2009 legislative session, there were threats to to either suspend or abolish the fund. While it was protected, it could be a target again in the 2010 legislative session.

“While deposits to the Legacy Land Conservation Program are small – only a few million per year – the funds are critical matching funds for federal and private dollars to help us save coastal lands like Lapakahi that will be treasured by generations to come,” said Lea Hong, TPL’s Hawaiian Islands Program Director. “The cost to the people of Hawai’i for these types of projects is only 30-50% of the land’s fair market value because we bring in significant matching private and federal funds. For every dollar spent by the Legacy Land Conservation Program, $2 or more of non-State money is brought in. The Legacy Land Conservation Fund is wise investment in Hawai’i’s future.”

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.