Nearly 2,000 acres of culturally and historically significant land in Kaʻū is preserved into perpetuity
Efforts are underway on the south side of Hawaiʻi Island to preserve nearly 2,000 acres of culturally and historically significant land along the Kaʻū coastline.
Ownership and stewardship of the area known as Kiolakaʻa was recently transferred to a Native Hawaiian non-profit made up of members with genealogical ties to the land.
Kiolakaʻa includes miles of open space on the Kaʻū coastline east of Kaʻaluʻalu Bay. The area has been a popular fishing and recreation spot for generations of local families. Keoni Fox says local kūpuna started the move to protect it from development.
“A lot of the Kaʻū community relies on subsistence fishing and gathering to supplement food for their families and with the closure of the plantation, a lot of our kūpuna saw all these places at risk not just of development and losing these resources but also a change in the community’s character,” Fox said.
Kiolakaʻa is home to a freshwater spring used by ancient Hawaiians, and important cultural sites. Fox is the director of the Ala Kahakai Trail Association, which now owns the Kiolakaʻa property — and has plans that go beyond the trail.
“We also want to make sure that the trail is connected to the community that it passes through,” Fox said. “That we not just protect the physical traits of the trail, sometimes it’s the history and the stories associated with that, the moʻolelo of our kūpuna and those who walked that trail before us.”
The effort to protect Kiolakaʻa was facilitated by the Trust for Public Land, through its Aloha ʻĀina Program, which focuses on protecting lands that are important to Native Hawaiian communities and returning those lands to Native Hawaiian stewardship.
“We have so many coastlines in Hawaiʻi that have gone to development. We see luxury homes and hotels and resorts. And so really Kaʻū is can be at the forefront of what governance of land and resources can look like at a grassroots level,” said Reyna Ramolete Hayashi, program manager for the Trust for Public Lands Aloha ʻĀina Program.
“They have this incredible opportunity to come together and bring their cultural knowledge, their values to bear and really get involved in community-based management of their coastal and cultural resources,” Ramolete Hayashi said.