Park opens old ranch for special events
What ever happened to the 117,000-acre Kahuku addition to Hawaii Volcanoes National Park?
Answer: Mountain biking, cattle ranching displays and Hawaiian cultural festivals are some of the events that take place at the former Kahuku Ranch at the southern end of the Big Island.
Acquisition of the land by the park also meant expansion of protection for endangered species, said park naturalist Rhonda Loh.
Besides numerous rare species of birds and plants that were found in the older portion of the park, three additional endangered birds, not found in the older park, are now protected in Kahuku.
They are 'akiapola'au, 'akepa and one known in English as the Hawaiian creeper.
Kahuku also has 40 endangered, threatened or rare plants, of which 13 are not found in the older park, Loh said.
When Kahuku was added to the 217,000-acre older park, that expanded the total park size by roughly 50 percent without corresponding money to manage the area.
The park's solution has been to invite the public for special events rather than keep Kahuku open every day.
With former ranch roads in modest to miserable shape, some of the events can be real adventures, such as the day last summer when 45 mountain-bike riders covered a 15-mile trail while heeding a park warning, "Don't spook the cattle!"
Cattle have been retained as a means of controlling non-native grasses, and cowboys have been retained to herd them. The cowboys share their knowledge on special Paniolo Days.
Moderate hikes are held once a month. For information, call 808-985-6011.
This update was written by Star-Bulletin reporter Rod Thompson.
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