East Hawaii News

Pōhue Bay Preserved From Mauka to Makai

July 12, 2022, 11:16 AM HST
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Ownership of Pōhue Bay in Kaʻū has been transferred to the National Park Service. (Photos courtesy of Trust for Public Land)

More-than-16,000-acre parcel in Kaʻū now part of Hawaiʻi Volcanoes National Park

Pōhue Bay in Kaʻū, home to numerous Hawaiian cultural sites and critical habitat for endangered Hawaiian species, will be preserved as part of Hawaiʻi Volcanoes National Park.

Trust for Public Land transferred ownership and stewardship of the bay, a 16,451-acre parcel from Māmalahoa Highway to the shoreline, to the National Park Service on Tuesday, July 12.

A turtle is seen at Pōhue Bay.

“Aloha ʻāina begins with our commitment to preserving our islands’ precious natural and cultural systems,” Lea Hong, associate vice president and Hawaiian Islands state director for Trust for Public Land, said in a press release. “We are grateful the National Park Service will steward the area with the support of the community, ensuring the history, culture and natural beauty of this place are protected for future generations.”

Several well-preserved and significant Hawaiian cultural sites, including the largest recorded abrader quarry in Hawaiʻi, lava tubes, a burial site, mauka-to-makai trails, fishing shrines, remains of once-thriving coastal villages and petroglyphs, are located at Pōhue Bay. A well-preserved portion of the Ala Kahakai National Historic Trail, or Ala Loa, an ancient coastal trail system, also hugs the area’s coastline.

The Pōhue coastline is also home to endangered Hawaiian species such as the honu‘ea, the Hawaiian hawksbill turtle, and Hawaiian monk seal. Rare endemic ʻōpaeʻula, red shrimp, live in the area’s anchialine ponds and the bay is often frequented by native and migratory birds, including ʻiwa, a frigate bird; koaʻe kea, a white-tailed tropic bird; kōlea, a golden plover; ʻūlili, a wandering tattler; and ʻaukuʻu, a black-crowned night heron.

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“Pōhue is an incredibly precious and culturally significant landscape that needs to be protected,” Hawaiʻi Volcanoes National Park Superintendent Rhonda Loh said in the press release. “We are actively seeking community feedback to get a better understanding of the natural and cultural resources in the area. The park is working to develop an interim operating plan for Pōhue that explores opportunities for public use compatible with resource protection. We thank the community for your patience and for the manaʻo shared so far.”

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Trust for Public Land, a national nonprofit organization that works with communities to create parks and protect public lands where they are needed most, purchased Pōhue Bay for more than $9.4 million. Ownership of the bay was transferred to the National Park Service so the area’s native ecosystems and cultural treasures would be well cared for and preserved.

Trust for Public Land also donated $800,000 to the Friends of Volcanoes National Park to support the National Park Service’s management of Pōhue Bay.

The bay has been the subject of several resort development proposals; however, community members identified the property as one of the highest priority acquisition/expansion areas in the Kaʻū Community Development Plan, and the acquisition of Pōhue was recommended in the 2016 Hawaiʻi Volcanoes National Park General Management Plan.

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Before the land transfer, NPS took proactive steps and met with community members in partnership with Trust for Public Land and the Hawaiʻi Alliance for Community-Based Economic Development to better understand the land’s cultural, historical and ecological significance. This preliminary process will continue during the next several months.

Until a Pōhue interim operating plan is completed, and safe access protective of cultural and natural resources can be ensured, public access is temporarily restricted. There are no bathroom facilities or capacity for trash removal, and emergency response is very limited. Portions of the current jeep trail and pedestrian routes to the coastline also pass through private lands not managed by the park.

A public meeting is scheduled for 1-3 p.m. Aug. 13 at the Ocean View Community Center. Additional meetings will be announced soon.

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