Exploring the 277-Acre Land Reserve of Maui Coastal Land Trust

The Maui Coastal Land Trust was established in 2001 with the mission to “preserve and protect the coastal lands of Maui Nui for the benefit of the natural environment and of current and future generations.” Since then, the group has been successful in conserving more than 15,000 acres of land. One of their most remarkable achievements is the Waihe'e coastal dune and wetland refuge, a 277-acre land reserve located on the north coast of Maui. The refuge encompasses 24 acres (9.7 hectares) of coastal wetlands fed by springs, 103 acres (42 hectares) of sand dune ecosystem, more than 7,000 feet (2,100 m) of coastline, and more than 8 acres (3.2 hectares) of riverine habitat. It is situated on the windward side of Maui, Hawaii.

The land title and jurisdiction along this coast are unclear, but access to the water is safeguarded by conservation easement. The protection of this land is provided by the owner by accepting a conservation easement on the land or by selling it to HILT. The Hawaii Land Trust adopted the management of this conservation easement in 2004, which covers approximately two acres. The Hawaii Land Trust understands that Hāwea Point is an important refrigerator for the ohana (families) of this area and, perhaps, a resting place for the ʻiwi kūpuna. The Hawaii Land Trust ensures the permanent protection of this rich cultural site, which in the past was intended to become a golf resort. While the land title and jurisdiction along this coast are unclear, “the trail is privately owned, but access to the water is protected by conservation easement,” said James Crowe, ʻĀina custody manager of the Hawaii Land Trust. Experience this virtual tour of the Waiheʻe coastal dune and wetland refuge created by Maui Huliau students.

The platform land is public, but the land above that part of the trail is private property and is not subject to conservation easement. The Maui Coastal Land Trust has been successful in protecting a large area of land from development and preserving it for future generations to enjoy. This 277-acre reserve provides an important refuge for wildlife and a unique cultural experience for visitors.

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