East Hawaii News

The Kohala Center: New Program Sparked from $8 Million in Land Gifts

March 21, 2016, 11:59 AM HST
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The Kohala Center has received two agricultural land gifts on the Big Island in the past year-and-a-half totaling $8 million, sparking a new ‘Āinaho‘i Program, created to preserve previously private owned lands for long-term protection.

A 60-acre ranch at Keawewai on Kohala Mountain was the first of the two donations, followed by the donation of a 48-acre coastal property in Niuli’i, whose transfer was completed in January.

The ‘Āinaho‘i Program’s goal is to encourage the transfer of privately held lands for protection, compassionate stewardship, and community resilience.

“The idea is to return lands that were once productive, that sustained the people who lived on and near them, to abundance so that they may nourish the cultural, spiritual, and nutritional needs of today’s island communities,” said Dr. Kamanamaikalani Beamer, president and chief executive office of The Kohala Center. “Landowners who are looking to ensure their lands are not only protected, but restored and managed in a way that benefits our island communities, honors cultural traditions, and respects the natural world might find this program fulfills all their goals.”

‘Āinaho‘i, which The Center interprets as “it is indeed that which feeds us” and “land gifted or returned,” focuses on conserving and protecting natural landscapes and transforming them from personal to community-focused assets, making them agriculturally and culturally productive once again.

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Jim Posner, a Waimea resident, donated the first of the two properties, which has since been named ‘Āinaho‘i at Keawewai.

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The property was named for the Center’s Kohala Watershed Partnership program to restore native forests on Kohala Mountain.

The Keawewai site will eventually serve as the hub of The Center’s agricultural and educational initiatives, and offer community organizations a natural and peaceful environment for personal and professional growth.

At the site, an existing structure will be converted into a certified commercial kitchen available for use by community food producers.

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“The spirit of my gift represented a convergence of vision from the ancient and recent past onward into the future, outward to the world at large, and beyond what we imagine today,” Posner said. “I wanted the land to be a productive and welcoming place for the purposes of conservation, propagation, education, expression, communion, and ‘funion’…I felt that The Kohala Center was ideally suited to steward the ranch to the next level.”

Posner’s story, in turn, inspired Allene Wong and David Eckles to consider donating a property they owned in Niuli‘i, North Kohala, to The Center for long-term stewardship.

The property, which consists of 25 acres of agricultural land and 25 acres of conservation land, was purchased over a decade ago, and the couple decided against their plans to relocate to North Kohala.

“Regardless, we remained hopeful that the land would find its new rightful owner who would appreciate and embrace its unique history,” Wong said. “The ag parcel was once the home of the Niuli‘i Sugar Mill, and bits of the mill’s foundation remain intact. The conservation parcel hides a magical hala grove and there are moi ponds below its cliffs. We are excited to know that the property will thrive under the stewardship of The Kohala Center, realizing its full potential for the benefit of Hawai‘i’s communities.”

‘Āinaho‘i at Niuli‘i is anticipated to be transformed into a productive agricultural land that will provide support to the native food forest, production of traditional Hawaiian crops, and a venue for cultural practice and spiritual rejuvenation, according to The Center.

Part of North Kohala's historic Nā Hala O Naue hala grove remains on the ‘Āinaho‘i at Niuli‘i property recently gifted to The Kohala Center. The Center plans to restore the grove and provide cultural practitioners and weavers with access to this precious resource. Photo courtesy of The Kohala Center.

Part of North Kohala’s historic Nā Hala O Naue hala grove remains on the ‘Āinaho‘i at Niuli‘i property recently gifted to The Kohala Center. The Center plans to restore the grove and provide cultural practitioners and weavers with access to this precious resource. Photo courtesy of The Kohala Center.

‘Āinaho‘i at Niuli‘i comprises 48 acres of historically significant conservation and agricultural land on the North Kohala coast. Photo courtesy of The Kohala Center.

‘Āinaho‘i at Niuli‘i comprises 48 acres of historically significant conservation and agricultural land on the North Kohala coast. Photo courtesy of The Kohala Center.

Kawaihae and Pelekane Bay as seen from The Kohala Center's ‘Āinaho‘i at Keawewai property on Kohala Mountain. Photo courtesy of The Kohala Center.

Kawaihae and Pelekane Bay as seen from The Kohala Center’s ‘Āinaho‘i at Keawewai property on Kohala Mountain. Photo courtesy of The Kohala Center.

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