HILT's First Public Preserve on O‘ahu

IMG_0368 Today, July 3, 2014, the Hawaiian Islands Land Trust (“HILT”) is pleased to announce that it has completed the acquisition of the  Maunawila property, which is about 9 acres, in Hauʻula on Oʻahu.  This property will become HILT’s first public preserve on Oʻahu.

HILT purchased the Maunawila property from the McGregor ʻOhana.  It was originally bought by Louise Aoe McGregor, as a homestead, on August 25, 1906 from the Territory of Hawaiʻi.  Her husband, Daniel Pamawaho McGregor Sr., was born and raised in Hauʻula.  His grandfather Kalimahaʻalulu had been a konohiki (overseer) of an ancient land division there.  Mrs. McGregor taught and served as a principal at the Hauʻula Elementary School.

The couple and their children lived at Maunawila for about a decade.  After a fire destroyed their home, they moved to Honolulu and then to Kaluanui, a valley in Koʻolauloa adjacent to Hauʻula.  Subsequent generations of McGregor descendants inherited Maunawila but chose not to live there.  Thus, the property remained unoccupied from the 1920s to the present.  “We believe that our grandparents would be very honored to have this ʻāina shared with the entire community as an educational and cultural resource for the benefit of current and future generations,” said Lurline McGregor, grand-daughter of Louise and Daniel McGregor.

The Maunawila Heiau is one of the last remaining relatively intact heiau in the Koʻolauloa region.  In recent years, members of the McGregor ʻOhana, the Hauʻula Community Association and the Koʻolauloa Hawaiian Civic Club and BYHU faculty and students have worked with archaeologist Rosanna Thurman to clear overgrown vegetation.  According to Thurman, “Only sparse information was known of Maunawila Heiau at the beginning of the project.  However, once we began removing brush, a roughly 1,000 square meter heiau consisting of two platform terraces was found.  The surface of the heiau is well preserved with stone paving, alignments, and discrete stone features.  The heiau contains characteristics which are similar to other island chains of the Pacific, yet unique in the Hawaiian Islands, including cut and dressed slabs of coralline beach rock.  The site has been mapped in detail and limited excavations reveal the heiau was built in stages beginning around AD 1500.  Through involvement with the community and nearby schools and universities, the heiau has been a wonderful teaching tool for generating knowledge of Hawaiian culture and history as well as supporting appreciation and respect for the land.”  Moreover, oral history indicates the heiau was likely a healing temple.

HILT is collaborating with the Hauʻula Community Association and the Koʻolauloa Hawaiian Civic Club to develop plans for the creation of a public preserve on the property.  For the past three years, the two community groups have been at the forefront of stewarding the property, hosting community work days at the heiau once a month.  “Maunawila Heiau is a source of inspiration.  As our community works to preserve Maunawila Heiau, its spirit heals us,” said Dotty Kelly-Paddock, President of the Hauʻula Community Association.  According to Ululani Bierne-Keʻawe, President of the Koʻolauloa Hawaiian Civic Club, all the work being done at the heiau reflects the saying, “Lawe I ka maʻalea a ke kūʻonoʻono.  Take the wisdom and make it deep.”  HILT will now carefully work to design infrastructure for the preserve (trails, interpretive signage, parking, etc.), raise funds for such infrastructure and then install it.  Thereafter, the preserve will be opened to the public so more people can connect with the land and HILT’s land conservation work.

HILT’s Executive Director, Ted Clement, stated, “Many people helped make this project possible, including members of the Hauʻula Community Association and the Koʻolauloa Hawaiian Civic Club, and we would like to thank everyone, especially the McGregor ʻOhana.  The Legacy Lands Conservation Program of the State of Hawaiʻi and the Clean Water and Natural Lands Fund of the City and County of Honolulu provided the funding which enabled the Hawaiian Islands Land Trust to purchase this important land.  Thus, we wish to thank everyone involved with those programs, and especially Governor Neil Abercrombie, Mayor Kirk Caldwell, City Council Chair Ernie Martin and the rest of the Council.  I would also like to acknowledge the hard work of three of our staff members on this project, Janet Britt, Scott Fisher and Tina Aiu, and a HILT Oʻahu Island Council member, Cynthia Rezentes.”

The Hawaiian Islands Land Trust is an independent 501(c)(3) non-profit, and the first land trust in Hawaiʻi to receive national accreditation.  The mission of HILT is to conserve the lands that will sustain us for current and future generations.  To date, HILT has conserved over 17,000 acres on a number of properties with various conservation values (agricultural resources and fresh local foods, wildlife habitat and biodiversity, beautiful scenic vistas that keep Hawaiʻi a desirable place to live, work and visit, outdoor recreation areas that keep people healthy and connected to nature, cultural and historic resources that connect us to our past, and water resources that provide clean drinking water) important to residents and visitors alike.


Photo: Franz Schmutzer