More than 16,000 acres of pristine white sand beach and ocean bay area are now protected thanks to a deal made with Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park on the Big Island. This area is home to endangered and endemic species as well as rare, culturally significant Native Hawaiian artifacts.
Trust for Public Land, a national non-profit land preservation group, purchased Pōhue Bay for more than $9.4 million funded by the Land and Water Conservation Fund and an important donation by the Wyss Foundation. It then transferred its ownership and surrounding land — from Māmalahoa Highway to the shoreline — to the National Park Service so it will be preserved.
“Aloha ʻāina begins with our commitment to preserving our islands’ precious natural and cultural systems,” said Lea Hong, associate vice president and Hawaiian Islands state director for Trust for Public Land. “We are grateful the National Park Service will steward the area with the community, ensuring the history, culture, and natural beauty of this place are protected for future generations.”
Pōhue Bay is a rare, idyllic oasis in a rugged landscape. It’s the only white sand beach for many tens of miles in the rugged district of Kaʻū on Hawaii Island. Generations of local residents visit to surf, fish, dive, and reconnect with nature and culture. It’s home to endangered hawksbill sea turtles, green sea turtles, endangered Hawaiian monk seals, and other species found only in Hawaii. The area houses anchialine ponds — landlocked pools with a mix of fresh and salt water — where rare Hawaiian red shrimp called ʻōpaeʻula live.
The area is also culturally significant because it holds remains of ancient Hawaiian villages, petroglyphs dating from ancient times to the 19th century, a burial site, and the largest known abrader tool quarry in the state, according to the Trust for Public Land. Abraders are ancient tools used for sanding, smoothing, and grinding. A well-preserved portion of the Ala Kahakai National Historic Trail, or Ala Loa, an ancient coastal trail system, hugs the coastline. All of these historic and invaluable cultural resources are now protected for future generations.
“Pōhue is an incredibly precious and culturally significant landscape that needs to be protected,” said Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park Superintendent Rhonda Loh. 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.”
About Trust For Public Land
Since 1979, Trust for Public Land has conserved more than 59,000 acres in Hawaii. The immediate priority is conserving lands that enhance trails and parks, protect food, forests and water, and create opportunities for Hawaiian land stewardship. It works with local residents in safeguarding resources that are special and significant to their communities.
Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park
Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park protects some of the most unique geological, biological, and cherished cultural landscapes in the world. Mauna Loa and Kilauea are two of the world’s largest and most active volcanoes. Both are located at Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. Most of the coastline where the bay is located is made of ancient lava flows, black rock, and sea cliffs that dart out into the ocean.
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