TPL Buys More Time for Mu’olea Effort (HI)

HONOLULU, HI, 7/29/04 -The Trust for Public Land (TPL)announced today that its national board has given authority to borrow the full amount of funding needed to purchase the 70-acre M?’olea Point and remove the property from the private market. The decision came only days before a purchase agreement would have expired between TPL and the current landowner, Hanahuli Associates.

“The landowner has been a great partner to work with and very clearly wanted to see M?’olea protected,” said Josh Stanbro, Project Manager for the TPL Hawai’i Office. “It was simply time for us to act to make sure the opportunity for permanent public protection wasn’t lost. TPL has borrowed significant money to buy this incredible property. TPL is seeking contributions from the community to help save this magnificent bluff while we have the chance, or it will be lost forever.”

Although TPL has raised a large portion of the funds necessary to purchase the parcel, contributions from the County of Maui and the Office of Hawaiian Affairs are pending, and additional private donations are critical to ensure a permanent purchase. The TPL Board decision allows TPL to hold the land for up to six months to raise the required funding. If funding is not forthcoming within that time, the Trust may be forced to sell the property.

“We’re confident that the community will help us and it won’t come to that,” stated Stanbro. “This coastal piece is a cultural treasure and traditionally used by the local community. We’re exposing ourselves to risk because we believe the will is there to see it protected forever.”

Public acquisition of M?’olea Point will ensure protection of the natural and cultural riches that remain on this rugged portion of the H?na coastline. Several large portions of the property are covered with Native Hawaiian cultural structures, including heiau, agricultural complexes, and ancient home sites. The land once served as King Kal?kaua’s summer home and was passed to his sister and Hawai’i’s last Queen, Lili’uokalani. The historical property also serves a contemporary role as local community members maintain traditional ties to the land and sea where they continue to gather limu, swim in spring-fed coastal pools, and teach children to fish from the rocky shoreline.

Two streams and a freshwater spring run through the property. One stream is home the ‘o’opu or goby and the ‘?pae or native shrimp. Hawai’i’s endangered monk seal also frequents the M?’olea coast. An impressive coconut grove at M?’olea Point is believed to be the only remaining stand of purely native Polynesian-introduced coconut trees (not intermixed with subsequently introduced coconut varieties) on Maui.

The effort to protect M?’olea Point received another boost yesterday, when Governor Lingle told the County that she would release $100,000 in state funds for the purchase immediately. “There is a freeze on state funds in general until September,” said Dave Deleon, Senior Executive Assistant to the Mayor, “But the Governor’s action demonstrates the urgency of this project.”

TPL applauded the Governor’s release of the state funding. “We’re also encouraged and appreciate the speed with which the County Council is moving to hold hearings regarding County funding,” noted Stanbro. A hearing will be held on August 3rd at 9am by the Budget and Finance Committee to determine whether the County of Maui should contribute $1 million from the Open Space Fund towards the protection of the $4 million property. Funding for the project is coming from several sources, including $2 million dollars in federal money designed to protect coastal lands.

Mayor Alan Arakawa congratulated the Trust for Public Land Board for its quick action. “We are overjoyed that the Trust for Public Land board has bought us time to save this precious property,” Mayor Arakawa said. “This once-in-a-lifetime opportunity could very well have slipped away from us. Instead, working together, we hope to leave a unique piece of unspoiled and historically significant Hawaiian land at M?’olea Point for future generations.”

To donate to the protection of Mu’olea, please contact Josh Stanbro, the Trust for Public Land at (808) 524-8564 or mail contributions to The Trust for Public Land-Hawaii, 212 Merchant Street, Suite 320, Honolulu, HI 96813.

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.