Land trust details priorities, celebrates 20th anniversary

LIHU‘E — Expanding the county Black Pot Park in Hanalei remains the primary objective for the Kaua‘i Public Land Trust, said Jennifer Luck, KPLT executive director.

But that by no means is the only target for the nonprofit, which is celebrating a 20-year history of protecting the island’s “places of the heart,” she said.

A 20-acre strip of beach-front land in Kilauea will become KPLT property next year if all goes as planned, with $3.4 million in federal, state and private funds approved for the purchase of the property near the mouth of the Kilauea Stream at Kilauea Bay and Kahili Beach, also known as “Rock Quarries.”

As a result of support to see Alekoko (Menehune) Fishpond in public hands, efforts are underway to either acquire the property or encourage the current owner to consider a conservation easement that essentially guarantees no development will take place on the parcel, Luck said.

The landowner of several acres around and including Kilauea Falls has entered into a conservation easement with KPLT that retires the owner’s development rights on some of the land and guarantees that the 150 acres of scenic lands in the Kilauea Stream estuary are protected from development forever, she said.

But expansion of the heavily used county Black Pot Park remains atop KPLT’s acquisition list, Luck said.

“That’s our top priority,” she said of the parcel next to Hanalei pier owned by John Hodge, who is willing to sell it if enough public and private funds can be raised for the acquisition.

Initially, KPLT had been working with another landowner, Mike Sheehan, to acquire two of his parcels also adjacent to the park and Hanalei River, but Sheehan and KPLT could not agree on a purchase price, said Luck.

When KPLT learned about Hodge’s plans to build a house on his property, and his willingness to sell to KPLT if they could raise the $3 million asking price, the park-expansion target moved south instead of mauka, she said.

The KPLT has $1.85 million in county funds set aside for land for park expansion, and is still hopeful that state funds raised for land acquisition through a law that sets aside a percentage of conveyance fees due on all properties sold in the state will be able to be tapped for purchase of the Hodge property, she said.

Where Alekoko Fishpond is concerned, Luck said it is one of the state’s oldest fishponds and is in need of repair and restoration.

This year, KPLT is celebrating its 20th anniversary with a fund drive asking people to consider giving $20 a month for 20 months, or a total of $400.

“$400 is a very generous gift,” said Luck, adding that if the campaign raised between $20,000 and $25,000, she would consider it a success.

In these tough economic times, KPLT has heard “no” from prior major donors who had previously helped fund acquisition efforts, she said.

“We’re really lean,” she said of KPLT administrative costs, with Luck working out of her home so that most donations can go directly toward land acquisition.

Over KPLT’s first two decades, some 178 acres on Kaua‘i have been donated, acquired or otherwise set aside, never to be developed.

From a small, frequented coastal strip in Ha‘ena to 158 acres of coastal wildlife habitat and scenic estuary lands in and around the Kilauea Stream estuary, these lands are protected against development in perpetuity, according to the KPLT Web site.

In addition to the priority targets listed earlier, KPLT also has ambitious plans to acquire or manage as perpetual open space the Coco Palms Resort site and rugged Maha‘ulepu coastline, and land for expansion of Po‘ipu Beach Park.

Creation of a passive park in Kekaha is another project on KPLT’s to-do list, she said.

“Ken Burns’ recently televised documentary, ‘The National Parks: America’s Best Idea,’ is a moving reminder that our efforts on Kaua‘i are part of a rich national legacy that was begun generations ago,” according to the KPLT Web site.

“Only our focus is on ‘local’ lands and ‘local’ places — places on Kaua‘i that have generated rich memories and deep connections with the ‘aina for families and individuals over many years,” the Web site states.

For more information, contact Luck via e-mail at jennifer@kauaipubliclandtrust.org, call 346-9419 or visit www.kauaipubliclandtrust.org.

• Paul C. Curtis, staff writer, can be reached at 245-3681 (ext. 224) or pcurtis@kauaipubco.com.

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