Saving a path for connection: Ala Kahakai Trail Association secures funding to purchase Waikapuna

by Kaleo Paik, Board Member, Ala Kahakai Trail Association

Keoni Fox, Ala Kahakai Trail Association Board Member, speaks to community members about the ongoing preservation work being done in the Kau district, which includes Waikapuna. Photo Credit: AKTA.

This year’s Hike the Hill in Washington, D.C. focused on the perpetual renewal of the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF), which had far reaching effects for protection of the National Trails System through land acquisitions. The importance of passing this effort through the Senate and House—as part of the John D. Dingell, Jr. Conservation, Management, and Recreation Act—demonstrated the awareness that our trails are deserving of protection. 

The Ala Kahakai National Historic Trail (AKNHT), or traditionally named the Alanui or Ala Loa, is in constant danger of development. Hawaii’s coasts are considered prime lands and are highly sought by speculators. The Ala Kahakai Trail Association (AKTA) realizes the importance of protecting its national trail, and therefore it has focused its efforts in the past few years in protecting the AKNHT through acquisition opportunities.

AKTA’s board is made up of members with genealogical ties to sections of the trail. Board member Keoni Fox has such a tie to the lands of Kau, the southern portion of the trail. He has long sought a way to protect his ancestral lands, which have archaeological sites, family burials, and trails. These trails are both the Alanui and those that connect the sea to the uplands. For Fox, the protection of these lands goes far deeper than saving the sites or the trail; it is his responsibility to his ancestors who for generations have lived on these lands.

When the opportunity arose to purchase one of these properties, AKTA, led by Fox, sought the help of the Trust for Public Land (TPL). It was important to AKTA that the community be involved at the beginning of the process. Fox worked with TPL to secure the blessing from the community. He held many community meetings, spoke to county decision makers, and, most importantly, walked the property to do an inventory of culturally significant resources.

AKTA was able to secure funding from the State Legacy Land Fund as well as the County Open Space Fund to purchase Waikapuna for $8 million. AKTA is in the process of closing on the property and the title transfer is scheduled for September 2019. The property lies in the land division of Kahilipali and on its shore lies the ancient village of Waikapuna. The trail goes through the village and continues both north and south to neighboring land divisions. The dramatic vistas of the landscape are breathtaking.

In ancient times, the Alanui was the main route that connected the coastal villages. Commerce, travel between these villages, and fishing were the main activities. The chiefs would use this ancient trail to gather taxes from the people. The trail was the hub of each village.

In saving Waikapuna, AKTA ensures the perpetual protection of a portion of the trail and the resources within the property. The 2,300-acre acquisition is the first step in potentially saving more lands in neighboring land divisions. AKTA will continue to work with the community to foster a stewardship program. The beauty of Waikapuna can be shared with this generation and the many more to follow.

Unless otherwise indicated, all material in Pathways Across America is public domain. All views expressed herein are perspectives of individuals working on behalf of the National Trails System and do not necessarily represent the viewpoint of the Federal agencies.