deserve praise


The city takes control of a 220-acre parcel of land after a long struggle by Windward residents to keep it from development.

A decades-long endeavor by Windward residents to retain Heeia Kea Valley in a natural state has reached successful conclusion with the city taking control of the land. The task for the future will be to resist the impulse to convert the green swath of 220 acres that at various times were seen as the site for projects from housing to industry.

Through the years, urban sprawl has covered much of Oahu as the demand for homes paralleled the island's ever-growing population. In the 1970s, residents and preservation advocates -- as characterized by the Waiahole-Waikane struggle -- fought to sustain the remnants of the rural atmosphere on the Windward side. Accordingly, city officials shifted land-use policies. Still, the valley's proximity to already urbanized Kaneohe and Ahuimanu proved enticing to residential developers who continued to seek city approval for building up the area through the 1980s.

Hawaiian Electric Inc. at one time hoped to put up a power plant, then housing, but were turned away by the City Council several times. Another project would have placed homes and industrial and commercial development there. That, too, was rejected. A Japanese company, which bought the property in 1989, hoped to install a sports complex with a golf course, tennis courts and spa, but financial difficulties thwarted that plan. Money problems checked another proposal that would have given the city title to about 200 acres in exchange for permission to build homes on 17.5 acres.

Using its eminent domain powers, the city is taking the final steps toward acquiring the land. The Council has budgeted $4 million for the purchase and negotiations with the current California-based owners are proceeding to determine the price tag.

The valley and ridge above Heeia present stunning views of the Koolaus, the Windward coastline and Leeward Oahu. Nearby are the newly repaired Haiku stairs, Heeia State Park and the Kaneohe and Waiahole forest reserves, together harboring a green belt largely in an organic state.

The city's heeding of residents' desires bodes well for preservation -- at least for now. However, the temptation to gild nature runs strong. City managing director Ben Lee already hints of doing that, saying officials "have some exciting thoughts" about possible improvements, although he would not provide specifics. Those words should keep advocates on their toes.

Councilman Steve Holmes, who has shepherded preservation in the area for years, foresees little being done with the land, except for fixing up trails and encouraging other low-impact activity. He and the Kahaluu Neighborhood Board members who have fought long for their vision should be commended for their perseverance.


Published by Oahu Publications Inc., a subsidiary of Black Press.

Don Kendall, Publisher

Frank Bridgewater, Editor 529-4791;
Michael Rovner,
Assistant Editor 529-4768;
Lucy Young-Oda, Assistant Editor 529-4762;

Mary Poole, Editorial Page Editor, 529-4790;
John Flanagan, Contributing Editor 294-3533;

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