Ala Kahakai National Historic Trail 2021 Highlights

The Ala Kahakai Trail Association (AKTA) provided the following highlights for the Ala Kahakai NHT during the 2021 calendar year:

Conserving Trail Lands and Boosting Climate Resilience

The landscape at Kaunamano, the Ala Kahakai Trail Association’s latest 1300-acre land acquisition. Photo courtesy the Ala Kahakai Trail Association.

AKTA closed on a land acquisition of 1300 acres at Kaunamano on October 12, 2021, were able to acquire an easement on 600 acres earlier in the year in Honuapo and secured funding for another 1,800-acre project called Kiolakaa from the State of Hawaii Legacy Land Fund and the County of Hawaii Open Space program. The organization expects to close on the Kiolakaa acquisition in the summer of 2022. These acquisitions are the culmination of 5 years of effort by AKTA and the Trust for Public Land to protect, not only the trail, but the pristine coastline of Hawaii’s Big Island from development from South point to Honuapo. These land acquisitions closed gaps between State and County parcels.

Collaboration and Engagement

Last year AKTA formed a stewardship committee that will oversee the development of community engagement and management of all the properties the organization acquires in Kau. It was important for AKTA to have this management of their lands be inclusive of Indigenous Hawaiians and the larger community of people who call this area their home. The County of Hawaii has offered to pay for a management plan for the organization’s first acquisition, Waikapuna. AKTA is now in the process of working with a company to gather the information to finalize the plan. Interviews and site visits have already commenced. AKTA is also working with other partners in the community including the Nature Conservancy.

Education, Interpretation and Cultural Expression

Makahiki games on the Ala Kahakai NHT. Makahiki games are a traditional Hawaiian method of strength and endurance training and were at the forefront of life for Native Hawaiians during their traditional New Year celebration. Photo courtesy Ala Kahakai Trail Association.

After discovering a Makahiki grounds—an ancient festival site used for celebrating the traditional Hawaiian New Year—along the Trail, the Ala Kahakai Trail Association (AKTA) worked to bring school groups to the site to use it for traditional games associated with the celebratory season which runs from November to February. The goal was to build relationships with schools and encourage them to engage in traditional Hawaiian practices. The AKTA engaged school groups to teach them about the Trail in their area and to encourage them to visit the sites to strengthen their understanding of the Trail and what it represents to Native Hawaiians.