Riverfront land at Kilauea goes public

In public hands for perpetuity are three acres on the Kilauea River leading to Kilauea Bay, and an adjacent, five-acre parcel on Kahili Beach (Rock Quarries).

The three-acre, riverfront parcel, considered suitable habitat for endangered Hawaiian seabirds, was recently purchased by officials of the Kaua’i Public Land Trust (KPLT) from members of the Zweben family of Kilauea.

Officials with the KPLT used $1.46 million in federal funds in the form of a grant from leaders with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and a $50,000 grant from officials with The Nature Conservancy, Hawai’i chapter, to make the purchase, said Dr. Gary Blaich, KPLT president.

This parcel is adjacent to the fiveacre Kahili Beach parcel that members of the Zweben family donated to KPLT leaders in December 2003.

As with their earlier donation, the three-acre acquisition extinguishes the development rights for a house site, expands habitat for endangered plants and animals, and continues access for fishing, beach, and ocean recreation, Blaich said.

Blaich acknowledged members of the Zweben family for “their astute awareness that preservation of Kaua’i’s special places is urgent, and collaborative action is rewarding.”

The Zwebens’ first donation was contingent on securing local stewardship. Kilauea Neighborhood Association (KNA) leaders took on that responsibility.

Over the past two years, the KNA leaders have organized 14 cleanups and handled other maintenance chores, contributing over 300 person hours at Kahili Beach, Blaich said.

Blaich noted that “the donation would not have occurred without KNA’s generous participation and commitment.”

The site provides connectivity with other sites separately targeted for protection under the Kilauea Point National Wildlife Refuge Expansion Act (P.L. 108-481) signed into law Dec. 23, 2004 by President Bush, he explained.

This law was introduced by U.S. Rep. Ed Case, D-Neighbor Islandsrural O’ahu, in September 2003, and was passed in the relatively short span of 15 months because of the hard and skillful work by members of Hawai’i’s entire congressional delegation, including U.S. Sen. Daniel K. Inouye and U.S. Sen Daniel K. Akaka, both Democrats.

Leaders of the County of Kaua’i will hold title to the new parcel. It will be cooperatively managed by officials with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, KPLT, and the county.

Restoration work will involve removal of invasive species, and revegetation with native Hawaiian estuarine and coastal plants, Blaich continued. This rehabilitation process will afford educational opportunities to area students, he noted.

Blaich pointed out that this land acquisition, like most projects of this type, required the collaboration of many parties to succeed.

Inouye’s staff was instrumental in helping KPLT leaders navigate the NOAA application process. Inouye, whose long-term commitment to conservation in Hawai’i is clear and steadfast, played a key role in helping secure this grant, Blaich said.

County-government officials, under the leadership of Mayor Bryan J. Baptiste and with support from all seven members of the County Council, provided “crucial assistance,” Blaich said.

Leaders with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the KNA, and O’Connor Realty, were also very helpful in helping to secure the property, Blaich said.

Looking ahead, KPLT leaders’ priority project is to acquire some of the parcels near Black Pot Park at the Hanalei River muliwai (estuary), for park expansion, he added.

The organization leaders also hope to help conserve more land in the Kilauea River basin, he said. Officials with KPLT have other coastal projects moving along, which will be described as they come to fruition.

The KPLT is a 501 (c) (3) charitable organization, and donations are tax- deductible. Contributions may be sent to P.O. Box 562, Kilauea, HI 96754.

For more information, please call 828-1438, or send a letter or card to the post-office box, Blaich concluded.

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