Pre­serv­ing a hill­side

A non­profit’s East Honolulu land pur­chase leaves some res­i­dents a bit on edge

Honolulu Star-Advertiser - - FRONT PAGE - LEE CATALUNA

Ear­lier this year, 75 acres of East Honolulu land, in one of Hawaii’s wealth­i­est ar­eas, sold for $380,000. The par­cel is on the slope that stretches from the east side of Aina Haina up to the lux­ury homes of Hawaii Loa Ridge. The land had been on the mar­ket for years, the price grad­u­ally drop­ping from over $2 mil­lion be­cause no­body wanted to buy an un­de­vel­oped sec­tion of a val­ley wall cov­ered in scrub brush and ki­awe.

The land was pur­chased with a $400,000 do­na­tion from the World Li­brary Foun­da­tion, an in­ter­na­tional or­ga­ni­za­tion that pro­vides roy­alty-free his­tor­i­cal books, clas­sic works of lit­er­a­ture and ref­er­ence books on­line. John Guagliardo, a Hawaii res­i­dent and for­mer lit­er­a­ture pro­fes­sor who works for World Li­brary, now serves as vol­un­teer ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of Hawaii Loa Ridge Pre­serve, an or­ga­ni­za­tion that was granted 501(c)(3) non­profit sta­tus last month, to man­age the par­cel.

“We want to be re­ally clear: The pre­serve will not be open to the pub­lic,” Guagliardo said. He says there are no plans for hik­ing trails, roads or build­ings. “Em­phatic no. We see that as an in­ap­pro­pri­ate use of the land. We will not in­crease traf­fic in the area.” The par­cel’s ad­dress is listed as 184 Pu­uikena Drive and is zoned preser­va­tion land. When Hawaii Loa Ridge was de­vel­oped into a gated com­mu­nity in the 1980s, the 75 acres along the Aina Haina side be­came “left­over” land, owned by Ather­ton Richards Trust. Two rain­wa­ter di­ver­sion

chan­nels were built down the hill­side when Hawaii Loa Ridge was de­vel­oped, though these have be­come clogged with buf­falo grass and branches. Vol­un­teers with the Hawaii Loa Ridge Pre­serve have be­gun work on the land, clear­ing dry brush, fig­ur­ing out what’s there and as­sess­ing risks such as rock­fall mit­i­ga­tion, ero­sion con­trol, and restora­tion of en­demic and in­dige­nous plants. The sud­den ac­tiv­ity on a hill­side that had been quiet and largely for­got­ten for decades has drawn con­cern from Aina Haina res­i­dents. Guagliardo spoke at the Oc­to­ber Kuliouou/Kalani Iki Neigh­bor­hood Board and plans to go back ev­ery month to give up­dates. “Ev­ery­one wants to know our in­ten­tions,” he said.

It is dif­fi­cult to un­der­stand why a group would take on a piece of prop­erty that seems to come with more pub­lic li­a­bil­ity than as­sets. It seems like an odd mis­sion for an or­ga­ni­za­tion ded­i­cated to lit­er­a­ture, but Guagliardo says the World Li­brary Foun­da­tion is also com­mit­ted to preser­va­tion in com­mu­ni­ties.

Kora Iechad-Remoket, a Ph.D. stu­dent at the Univer­sity of Hawaii at Manoa, serves as the vol­un­teer of­fice man­ager for the non­profit. She has been send­ing out sur­veys to Aina Haina neigh­bors, par­tic­u­larly those whose houses bor­der the prop­erty, ask­ing them about their main con­cerns and try­ing to find out the his­tory of the prop­erty. “We want to do a one-year pi­lot project to rein­tro­duce en­demic plants to the area and re­store the hill­side,” she said. “We want to know what can grow here, what’s ap­pro­pri­ate and what’s not ap­pro­pri­ate, and what en­demic plants can mit­i­gate rock­fall and help with ero­sion con­trol.” The pi­lot project calls for a green­house and a stor­age shed to sit on less than an acre of the prop­erty. IechadRemoket said these would be tem­po­rary struc­tures lo­cated near an al­ready-es­tab­lished road and ease­ment. The group also wants to cut in a fire­break by clear­ing 20 feet of dry brush be­tween the houses and the slope. Last week, Guagliardo fielded phone calls from area res­i­dents alarmed when a 40-foot ki­awe tree fell near the prop­erty line. No dam­age was done, but it was clear the neigh­bors are keep­ing an eye on what’s go­ing on. “The in­ten­tion is to keep the pre­serve a pre­serve,” Guagliardo said. “What we want to do now is as­sess and find out what is there, what it means, and take care of it. If you ig­nore what you should have known, then you get into trou­ble.”

CRAIG T. KOJIMA / CKOJIMA@STARAD­VER­TISER.COM

Seventy-five acres of land in one of Oahu’s most ex­pen­sive ar­eas for real es­tate was re­cently pur­chased for $380,000. The par­cel runs from the edge of Aina Haina homes up to the begin­ning of Hawaii Loa Ridge. This photo of the ridge was taken from Aipuni Street.

LEE CATALUNA / LCATALUNA@STARAD­VER­TISER.COM

John Guagliardo, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of Hawaii Loa Ridge Pre­serve, stands in a rain­wa­ter di­ver­sion chan­nel over­grown with weeds on the land the non­profit re­cently pur­chased in Aina Haina.

STAR-AD­VER­TISER

LEE CATALUNA / LCATALUNA@STARAD­VER­TISER.COM

Kora Iechad-Remoket, left, Tommy Oly and John Guagliardo with Hawaii Loa Ridge Pre­serve have be­gun clear­ing the land, as­sess­ing the risk of rock­fall and eval­u­at­ing the restora­tion of in­dige­nous plants.

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