Protection of Pupukea-Paumalu Celebrated (HI)

SUNSET BEACH, HI – With the scenic coastal bluff as a backdrop, the North Shore community will come together Saturday to celebrate the permanent protection of Pupukea-Paumalu, along O’ahu’s famed North Shore. Pupukea-Paumalu is an 1,129 acre coastal property that serves as the natural backdrop for international surf contests at Pipeline and Sunset Beach. A crowd of approximately 400 community members is expected at the celebration, which will take place at the park fronting Sunset Beach Elementary School.

The event will feature music by Kaukahi, Ernie Cruz, Johnny Helm, Jeff K., Kupa’aina, hula by Halau Na Lei Nani o Waialua, an ‘oli by Kumu Kuuipo Garrido, and a blessing by Reverend Kawika Kahiapo. It will also include a local craft fair and farmer’s market, bringing together the North Shore community for a day of family oriented fun, music, and celebration. Honored guests will include Governor Linda Lingle, U.S. Congressman Neil Abercrombie, Mayor Mufi Hannemann, former U.S. Army Garrison Hawaii Commander Col. Howard Killian, and other federal, state, and county officials.

This past June, the Trust for Public Land (TPL), a national non-profit land conservation organization, purchased the 1,129 acre Pupukea-Paumalu property from the Obayashi Corporation, which had previously planned a residential subdivision in the area in the late 1980s and early 1990s. TPL immediately transferred 25 acres along Kamehameha Highway next to the Sunset Beach Elementary School to the City and County of Honolulu. In August, TPL transferred the balance of 1,104 acres of the mauka property to the State of Hawai’i Parks Division, which will hold it as a Park Reserve. The North Shore Community Land Trust (NSCLT) will be working with the North Shore community on a plan for future management of the land. During the dedication event, NSCLT will solicit initial comments and suggestions.

“We want to thank Obayashi for working with TPL on this historic transaction. The project took longer than the average commercial sale, but Obayashi stuck with us, and worked with the community for a truly win-win outcome,” said Lea Hong, Hawaiian Islands Program Director for TPL. “There are so many key players to thank — it was a historic public-private partnership that took the cooperation and support of many agencies, community supporters, and businesses. We want to especially thank the State, Governor Linda Lingle, former BLNR Chair Peter Young, the City, Mayor Mufi Hannemann, City Councilperson Donovan Dela Cruz, NOAA, the U.S. Army Garrison Hawai’i, its former Commander Colonel Howard Killian, the State Legislature, Senator Robert Bunda and Representative Michael Magaoay, the North Shore Neighborhood Board, the North Shore Community Land Trust, the Surfrider Foundation and Masuo Ueda of Surfrider Foundation Japan , Jack and Kim Johnson, the many North Shore residents and businesses that supported the project, and our entire federal Congressional delegation (including former Congressman Ed Case) led by U.S. Senator Daniel Inouye, for their partnership and hard work in protecting this tremendous resource for the public.”

The acquisition and protection of Pupukea-Paumalu comes after two decades of growing community support to protect the land. In the 1990s, Japan-based Obayashi Corporation secured the rights to develop a residential subdivision known as Lihi Lani on the property. Community residents raised concerns regarding Obayashi’s project, and the proposed development was placed on hold. Unfavorable economic timing and corporate restructuring led Obayashi to place the property on the market in 2002, creating an opportunity for the ultimately successful public-private partnership.

Knowing the property was for sale, the NSCLT, a local non-profit conservation organization, approached TPL for its expertise in voluntary willing seller conservation real estate transactions. For several years, NSCLT and TPL negotiated with the landowner for the purchase of the property. Through the Surfrider Foundation Japan, a meeting was arranged between representatives of Obayashi and NSCLT at Obayashi’s headquarters in Tokyo. NSCLT asked North Shore resident and musician Jack Johnson to represent NSCLT at the meeting in Japan and present a painting of the property by local artist Bill Braden.

In 2006, TPL and Obayashi signed a $7.95 million purchase agreement, even though other potential buyers were interested in the property. A partnership between TPL, NSCLT, the U.S. Army Garrison Hawai’i, the Governor, the State Department of Land and Natural Resources, the State Legislature, the Mayor, the City Council, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), and Hawaii’s federal Congressional delegation formed to raise the funds.

“We are deeply grateful to Obayashi, TPL, our government officials, and the innumerable Pupukea Paumalu community supporters,” said Blake McElheny, President of NSCLT. “Community dreams can be achieved when we bring people together around shared values for the benefit of the public.”

Al Itamoto, Executive Vice President of Obayashi Hawaii, said, “The North Shore community has shown true commitment in protecting this land. We respect and appreciate the hard work of TPL and NSCLT in making this sale happen for the public benefit.”

Governor Linda Lingle said, “The preservation of Pupukea Paumalu through the collaborative efforts of public and private partners is another example of the innovative approach we as a state are taking to protect our natural and cultural resources for future generations,” said Governor Lingle. “This public-private partnership will ensure the continued conservation and management of culturally and environmentally significant sites that make O’ahu’s North Shore so special.”

Substantial federal funding through the Department of Defense and the NOAA made the project possible. Senator Inouye, who chairs the Senate Defense Appropriations Subcommittee, remarked, “Programs like the Army Compatible Use Buffer Program and the NOAA Coastal Estuarine Land Conservation Program serve the extremely useful purpose of protecting Hawai’i’s fragile environment. I was happy to support the U.S. Army Garrison, Hawai’i’s and TPL’s efforts to obtain adequate funding for these programs in Hawai’i.”

“When we say, ‘keep the country, country,’ we’re talking about sustaining natural treasures like Pupukea Paumalu ,” said Congressman Abercrombie, a member of the House Armed Services Committee and the Natural Resources Committee and its Fisheries, Wildlife and Oceans Subcommittee. “We dedicate this land because it must be preserved for our North Shore residents and the people of the entire state. Pupukea Paumalu is a place of breathtaking beauty that has helped to enhance our quality of life and define the identity of our state. As a member of your congressional delegation that has worked to help make this dedication day a reality, I congratulate the public-private partnership-and the vision of the North Shore community-that has ensured the protection of this symbol for conservation.”

The purchase was funded in large part by Department of Defense Readiness & Environmental Protection Initiative (REPI), through the Army Compatible Use Buffer (ACUB) Program and the U.S. Army Garrison Hawai’i. Pupukea-Paumalu was the Army’s first ACUB project in Hawai’i, but is the third to close following Waimea Valley in 2006, and Moanalua Valley in March 2007. The partnerships and relationships forged in the Pupukea-Paumalu project were key to the success of these three projects and future conservation efforts around military installations and training areas in Hawai’i.

“Cooperation and teamwork brought this community’s dream to life, and we’re honored to be a part of it,” said Col. Matthew T. Margotta, commander, U.S. Army Garrison, Hawai’i. “The ACUB program has been beneficial for everyone involved, and it’s been a great success here in Hawai’i. Through the program, we’ve been able to partner in preserving three significant cultural and natural treasures on Oahu, which is a significant accomplishment-one that we hope to repeat in the future. We’re going to continue to build and develop partnerships with local communities like NSCLT, and under the leadership of non-profit organizations like TPL, we can and will preserve these resources for Hawai’i’s future generations.”

NSCLT has raised additional money to work with the City and State to develop a community-based plan for use of the area and for stewardship. Given the property’s proximity to Sunset Beach Elementary School and the Boys and Girls Scout camps, it is hoped that youth outdoor educational activities can be incorporated into the future uses of the property. In addition, a plant nursery previously built by Obayashi on the property offer excellent opportunities for native plant propagation and restoration.

“NOAA has been pleased to support the implementation of the Coastal and Estuarine Land Conservation Program since its creation by Congress in 2002,” said David Kennedy, Director of NOAA’s Office of Ocean and Coastal Resource Management. “The CELCP Program’s objective was clearly met by the purchase of Pupukea Paumalu. Through the efforts of the all the project partners, this property will now be preserved for the benefit of Hawaii’s unique natural heritage, and enjoyed by present and future generations.”

To date, CELCP funding support has helped to preserve more than 32,000 acres of coastal habitat, including the North Shore. $15 million was included for CELCP in the fiscal year 2008 budget request for NOAA. The CELCP’s objective is to help permanently conserve lands in coastal and estuarine areas with significant ecological, conservation, historic, aesthetic, or recreation values, and that are threatened by conversion from a natural or recreational state to other uses.

“This acquisition will help O’ahu’s famed North Shore keep its country and rural character,” said Laura Thielen, BLNR Chair. “We look forward to working with the community on a future plan for use and management. We can’t do it alone, and appreciate the community’s commitment of human and financial resources to this effort.”

“The City is proud to have contributed to the preservation of this gem along the North Shore coastline,” said Mayor Mufi Hannemann. “Thanks go to the hard work of the community, NSCLT, and TPL in achieving this vision. We are committed to working with the community on the future vision for this property for the benefit of visitors and residents alike.”

The Trust For Public Land is a national nonprofit land conservation organization founded in 1972 to conserve land for people. 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.