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Kula land to become recreation site

Reforestation, community work will come initially

The state Department of Land and Natural Resources has acquired 3,433 acres of watershed lands in upland Kula for conservation. The Trust for Public Land purchased the property from the Shizuka Asakawa Revocable Trust in July and conveyed the property to DLNR on Aug. 31. Photo courtesy of Island Sotheby’s International Realty

Public hiking trails, picnic spots and forest excursions are in the works for more than 3,000 acres of Upcountry forestland recently acquired by the state.

The state Department of Land and Natural Resources announced Wednesday that 3,433 acres of upland Kula property called Kamehamenui was conveyed by the Trust for Public Land to DLNR’s Division of Forestry and Wildlife on Aug. 31.

The trust purchased the land from Shizuka Asakawa Revocable Trust in July for $9.83 million in federal and state funding.

Public use is likely more than a year out, according to Lea Hong, director and communications manager for the trust. She said a public hearing process before the state Board of Land and Natural Resources, along with consultation with the surrounding community, will be done first.

Also, reforestation in higher elevations to restore “as much watershed as possible” is in the works, Hong said. DLNR said reforestation will help recharge the Makawao aquifer, which will provide clean drinking water for residents.

“Watershed land is important on Maui,” Hong added.

Kamehamenui is home to endangered Hawaiian petrels and various native plants and insects.

Over the next year, DOFAW will add the property to the forest reserve system and will begin consultation with the community to develop an area management plan, according to the DLNR news release.

“This plan will address native forest restoration and tree planting for self-sustaining forestry operations and endangered species recovery,” the release said.

Although the property has just been acquired and is not yet open for public use, the area is intended to offer “new recreational opportunities for Maui residents and visitors,” according to DLNR, including “hiking trails, places to picnic and places to grow and gather forest products.”

The purchase was funded by $3.83 million from the U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service Forest Legacy Program; $2 million from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Habitat Conservation Plan Acquisition Program; and $4 million in state funding procured through legislative appropriation. 

Senate Majority Leader J. Kalani English said the Maui delegation worked “very hard” to secure state funding to help with the Kamehamenui acquisition.

“This area is beloved by many and we want to make sure that it is protected for future generations,” he said in the release.

* Kehaulani Cerizo can be reached at kcerizo@mauinews.com.

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