Facing Down Jaws

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Keeping Watch

In rural Ha‘ikū, along Maui’s north shore, the land descends in rolling hills from Hāna Highway to cliffs overlooking Pe‘ahi, better known to surfers the world over as Jaws. It’s prime real estate from which to observe big waves — and big-wave surfers — and the area’s also popular with cyclists, equestrians and hikers. Fifteen ancient trails have been identified here, along with historic hale (Hawaiian structures). The late Alex Bode started Waikikena Farm on some of this land, growing Hawaiian plants and helping at-risk youth and families by teaching them to farm.

This is prime real estate from a developer’s standpoint, too. On September 30, 2016, spurred in part by the sale of one of five lots for a private home, the County of Maui purchased the other four — nearly 270 acres. “We started looking at the possibility of losing the whole area,” says County Councilman Don Guzman. “Our plan was always to keep it as a passive conservation area, to preserve its pristine views and open spaces.”

Over the years, these former pineapple fields have become a dumping ground for trash and abandoned vehicles. Alexander & Baldwin, which owned the land, cleaned it up before selling it to the County. “In the next three weeks, we found more abandoned vehicles,” says Guzman.

Happily, Pe‘ahi has some powerful supporters. While the County assesses where to place berms and perhaps reroute old pineapple roads to make it harder to dump abandoned cars, Kathy Kaohu, Guzman’s executive assistant, notes that “an assortment of organizations have formed Malama Hamakua Maui (HamakuaMaui.org) to help steward the land. They include the Waikikena Foundation, Sierra Club, Ha‘ikū Community Association, Surfrider Foundation, old-roads advocates and representatives from big-surf contests. The County is working with Hawaiian lineal descendants of the region on preserving ancient trails, and Hawai‘i Farmers Union United is interested in doing organic farming here.

Want to help? Contact Councilman Don Guzman, 808-270-5501, don.guzman@mauicounty.us; or the Office of the Mayor, 808-270-7855, mayors.office@mauicounty.gov.


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