STAR-BULLETIN / MAY 1998
Waimea Valley is being purchased for $14 million in a deal that brought together various groups and government agencies.
Lingle OKs funding for Waimea Valley
Gov. Linda Lingle signed a bill yesterday that secures the last dollars needed to close a deal preserving Oahu's Waimea Valley, an area considered sacred by native Hawaiians and invaluable by conservationists.
The bill appropriates the state's $1.6 million share of the $14 million settlement to preserve the valley once up for sale as a private residential property for $25 million.
"This ahupuaa, Waimea Valley, will be celebrated and will emerge to lead the reconnection of native Hawaiians and Hawaii to people of the Pacific in the future," said Haunani Apoliona, chairwoman of the Office of Hawaiian Affairs.
Highly valued as one of the island's last intact ahupuaa -- a mountain-to-ocean farming development -- the valley on Oahu's North Shore is home to a popular botanical garden operated by the Hawaii Audubon Society, numerous ancient cultural sites and four of the five species of oopu, a native fish.
Under the arrangement, OHA will hold title of the valley, and the Audubon Society will continue to manage the 300-acre Waimea Falls Park, which includes a waterfall once used for cliff-diving performances and featured in an episode of the TV series "Lost."
Apoliona said the transfer of the 1,875 acres of the valley over to the office's ownership is imminent.
The other contributions in the deal include $3.5 million from the U.S. Army, $2.9 from the Office of Hawaiian Affairs, $5 million from the City and County of Honolulu and $1 million from the National Audubon Society.
The question over the fate for the valley was raised when New York investor Christian Wolffer, who had promised to protect the site after he acquired it in 1996, put the valley on the market four years later to be developed for private homes.
The move prompted the city to begin a condemnation process while putting $5.1 million toward the land's eventual purchase in escrow. Wolffer, however, argued that the valley had been appraised at more than three times that amount. The dispute was settled with the $14 million deal announced in January.
Lingle called the arrangement a "unique partnership."
The deal, which brought together a number of different groups and government agencies that are not used to working together, happened within the span of only a month after the city rejected a deal to split ownership of the valley, said Josh Stanbro, Hawaii project manager for the Trust for Public Land, which helped broker the deal with the U.S. Army.
"So it's actually a very short time frame when all the disparate partners came together to make this success happen. ... That's the incredible story here," he said.
Apoliona said she expects there to be a celebration to rededicate the valley in the next two to three months.
"We must and will work together, we who love Hawaii," she said. "For that is the way of native Hawaiians, that is the way of our elders and that is the way for Hawaii."