Tuesday, May 4, 1999

Group seeks Heeia
meadowlands lease

The nonprofit's members want
to create an educational farming
project in Kaneohe

By Jerry Tune


A nonprofit group interested in the sustainable agriculture of ancient Hawaiians wants to recreate this lifestyle on more than 600 acres at the Heeia meadowlands in Kaneohe.

The Center for a Sustainable Future Inc. hopes to eventually turn an ahupuaa -- a Hawaiian land division that runs from the mountains to the sea -- into an educational farming project.

The center already has a lease from Bishop Estate for the 90-acre Heeia pond, and grant money from the Hewlett Foundation of Menlo Park, Calif., and the Harold K.L. Castle Foundation of Kaneohe.


Tomorrow at 2 p.m. the group goes before the Hawaii Community Development Authority in a request for a lease on 405 Heeia acres that the state agency owns. The $1-a-year lease initially would be for two years, said Jan Yokota, the authority's executive director.

Former State Sen. Kenneth Brown and former Bishop Estate trustee Myron "Pinky" Thompson are board members for the nonprofit group.

"We have been talking about this idea of a sustainable lifestyle for about a year, and we've had a couple of community meetings, most recently in April," said Barry Raleigh, dean of the University of Hawaii's school of ocean and earth sciences and technology.

The university is not involved in the project but Raleigh is helping organize the community planning that he says is essential for success.

"The land is now being used for pasture land with a few cows," he said. "We have a 1926 aerial picture on how it used to be and it was actively cultivated on all of the land."

Most of the land was in rice production but Raleigh said the community planning process will decide what crops they want. "Do they want to plant tomatoes, or only sweet potato and taro? That's what we want to find out."

Volunteers will be encouraged to do the actual field work but, at this point, Raleigh does not know how many that will involve.

"The Department of Education has an interest in having students work there so they can understand how the ahupuaa system worked," Raleigh said.

Raleigh said that, with restoration of the Heeia pond, the operating costs for "the first couple of years" would be about $200,000 to $250,000 a year.

He said the Hewlett Foundation gave $50,000 for the first year, the Harold K.L. Castle Foundation gave an undisclosed amount for operation of the nonprofit organization.

Raleigh said he hopes ultimately the agriculture venture can be economically self-sustaining.

He said the group also is interested in a lease on lands mauka of Kahekili Highway, the area that includes a stream that feeds into the meadowlands. He said that should involve less than 200 acres.

With the addition of those acres, the nonprofit would have land that stretched from the mountains to the sea.

Raleigh said one of the interesting questions is how the ancient Hawaiians made the system work, and stay in balance, without man-made fertilizers that can runoff and pollute streams.

Raleigh said he hopes a community meeting May 8 at King Intermediate School can get many people signed up for the planning process.

The wetlands previously was planned for development.

International Pacific Development Inc., a Japanese-backed firm, had an agreement to buy the lands from the Bishop Estate for a golf course but backed off after state officials opposed the plan.

In 1990, Gov. John Waihee pledged to save Heeia from development.

The Bishop Estate later exchanged the Heeia lands and a 90,724-square-foot parcel at Cooke Street and Ala Moana in Kakaako for a 137,547-square-foot lot at Ala Moana between Koula and Ahui streets that was owned by the state. Both sides in the exchange received about $54 million in land and other considerations.

Other Center for a Sustainable Future directors include developer Duncan MacNaughton; Amar Bose, president of the Bose Corp.; Rep. Jerry L. Chang (D-South Hilo); James McIntosh, chairman of the Harold K. L. Castle Foundation; and Marylyn and Stephen Pauley, from the Edwin Pauley Foundation.

MacNaughton said he was asked by Brown to provide business experience to the venture, not for any development reasons.

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