Categorized | Environment, Featured

County acquires open space at Ooma

Ooma shoreline (Photo courtesy of Mayor’s Office)

Karin Stanton | Hawaii 24/7 Editor

The county has completed purchase of the last segment of open coastline between Kailua-Kona village and Kukio resort.

The county’s latest acquisition in the Public Access, Open Space, and Natural Resource Preservation program will protect 217 acres between Kohanaiki Shores and the Natural Energy Laboratory of Hawaii.

Ooma was the last privately-held open coastline area between Kailua town and the Kukio resort, and was the top-ranked property on the Public Access, Open Space, and Natural Resources Preservation Commission’s latest report.

The Mamalahoa Trail and Ala Kahakai National Historic Trail run through the property, and the preservation of Ooma also will help preserve ocean quality, contribute to a healthy reef, and allow for native cultural practices and ocean recreation.

“This open space purchase is the culmination of over 25 years of efforts on the part of the Kona community, which held onto a vision of an open coastline at Kohanaiki and Ooma,” said Councilwoman Karen Eoff, who has been involved with the community movement to protect Kohanaiki and Ooma in various capacities for more than two decades.

“This is an awesome gift to our community and validates the power in a shared vision,” she said at Friday’s blessing and check presentation. “Today celebrates not only the transfer of this land into the public trust, but also the warriors who never gave up.”

Those warriors include residents who vocally opposed several efforts to re-zone the property over the years and who pushed for the Public Access / Open Space amendment to be included on the county ballot.

County council representatives, county officials and dignitaries at Friday’s check presentation. (Photo courtesy of Mayor’s Office)

The purchase of the Ooma property closed Dec. 31, 2013 for $6.2 million, slightly more than half the $12 million asking price.

The county kicked in $4.2 million, which leaves $2 million in the fund. The next target on the commission’s list is Pohiki in Puna, which is listed at $1.5 million.

Kohanaiki Shores, the neighboring development that has shown a commitment to preserving the beauty of Kona, donated the remaining $2 million to secure the Ooma purchase.

This acquisition also enhances the public benefit of the 1.5 mile Kohanaiki Beach Park just to the south of Ooma, which opened to the public in June 2013.

Mayor Billy Kenoi said the acquisition was completed in a remarkably short time.

“We had a window open, an opportunity and we had to work really quickly and really hard to make it happen,” he said. “This is a huge purchase for us. It’s a reward for the community and those who fought so hard for this place.”

Kenoi said he considers the Ooma purchase to be one of the “most significant things we do in our political lives.”

Mayor Billy Kenoi makes an offering at Friday’s traditional blessing along the Ooma shoreline. (Photo courtesy of Mayor’s Office)

He pointed out it opens up the entire coastline along the island’s west side and supports residents’ vision of natural space, rather than a mixed-use development.

“This open space purchase adds another important, publicly owned shoreline recreational area that will serve many thousands of our residents, and will provide a place for our children and families to enjoy for generations to come,” Kenoi said. “This purchase required a cooperative effort by many community members, and we thank them for their efforts.”

The county anticipates preserving Ooma in its current natural condition as a buffer between the mauka urban area and the ocean, while allowing access for passive recreation and subsistence fishing.

Kenoi said the next step is to develop a management plan, which will include input from the mayor’s staff and personnel from the planning, parks and other departments. Residents will have a chance to weigh in at a public hearing once a management plan is drafted.

Former Kona councilman and long-time land preservation advocate Angel Pilago said he shares the community’s dream of the shoreline acting as a welcoming lei around the island.

“We are now all resources managers,” Pilago said.

Since taking office, Kenoi’s administration has purchased more than 1,247 acres to preserve shorelines and open space for children, families and the community.

Since 2008, the county has acquired open space at Kawa (785 acres) in Ka‘u; Kaiholena (228 acres) and Paoo (10 acres) in Kohala; and Laaloa (6 acres) and Ooma (217 acres) in Kona under the Public Access, Open Space, and Natural Resources Preservation program.

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