WEST MAUI - "Now, therefore, I, Shan S. Tsutsui, acting governor of the State of Hawaii, do hereby proclaim October 9, 2014, as Lipoa Point Day in Hawaii."
This was a proclamation heard around the world.
Congratulations and celebrate, West Maui - a miracle has happened.
According to Daniel L. Ornellas of the state Department of Land & Natural Resources, the state will engage in a planning process with the community on the future of Lipoa Point.
It's official. Maui Land & Pineapple Co. Inc. has conveyed approximately 250 coastal acres stretching along the rugged northwest shoreline from Honolua to Honokohau to the State of Hawaii for $19.5 million.
"It's huge. This is the realization of a dream that everybody had," beamed a very proud State Rep. Angus McKelvey.
State Sen. Roz Baker was equally pleased.
"This acquisition action, which culminates today, will ensure the protection and preservation of one of the most iconic landmarks in Hawaii while securing pension benefits for 1,600 retirees of the former Maui Land and Pineapple Inc. (MLP). This was all made possible with the passage of Act 241, which the Maui delegation and our colleagues at the legislature strongly supported.
"These lands hold important historical and archaeological sites and sits above a nationally recognized marine reserve. I am proud of the work that we have done to preserve these lands for our future generations to experience and enjoy, and that the funding set aside by this act goes to preserve pension benefits for many MLP and International Longshore & Warehouse Union retirees," Baker observed.
The road to preservation was not always clear.
In 2007, in response to the threat of the development of 40 homes and a golf course along the pristine shoreline, the powerful Save Honolua Coalition (SHC) was formed, and the march toward preservation began.
A groundswell of support came from all quarters - environmentalists, surfers, students, marine biologists, snorkelers, legislators and open space advocates.
Honolua Bay is a world-class surf spot and federal marine preserve.
Petitions were signed, placards were waved, bumper stickers and T-shirts were made and hours upon hours of testimony were heard.
All along, the message was loud and clear; and our county and state elected government representatives heard the collective plea: Save Honolua!
The county acted first, kick-starting preservation efforts in 2008 with a $1 million appropriation.
Our state lawmakers responded in 2013 with House Bill 1424, introduced by Representatives McKelvey, Mele Carroll, Kaniela Ing, Joe Souki, Kyle Yamashita and Justin Woodson.
It was signed into law (Act 241) by Gov. Neil Abercrombie mid-2013 in Wailea.
"We look out for one another," Abercrombie said at the time. "The interests of the residents of Maui County have been very well represented."
The bill partially reads: "Honolua is rich in marine resources and historical and archaeological sites, and is one of the most popular recreational areas for locals and tourists alike, offering some of the best snorkeling and surfing conditions on the island of Maui. Nationally recognized as a marine preserve, it has attracted federal funding and programs due to having some of the highest fish assemblage characteristics of all the Hawaiian islands. Additionally, Honolua is considered to have one of the most diverse, unique, and abundant reef formations, providing habitat for rare coral species.
"Historically, not only is Honolua Bay significant for Hawaiian canoe voyaging as being the departure point for the Hokule'a maiden voyage in 1976, it is also the site of several archaeological finds that were identified by Bishop Museum staff in 1974, including two heiau, boulders with grinding surfaces, house platforms, burial mounds and agricultural terraces."
McKelvey is looking forward to the next phase, the West Maui lawmaker told the Lahaina News at the ceremonies held last Thursday at the ILWU Union Hall in Wailuku.
"When we say malama, it means to take care of; and that's an active role. Today is a great day for celebration. It's also a day that we have to roll up our sleeves and work together to make sure it stays the way everybody knows it and loves it," the state lawmaker said.
The founder and former president of Save Honolua Coalition, West Side Councilwoman Elle Cochran, was in attendance as well.
"Yes, it is a very exciting day, and I am happy to be a part of it and see it come through to fruition. Perpetuity is forever, and so there's more work to come. It's just the beginning of another phase and the protection of a very sacred and special place," Cochran commented.
Tamara Paltin has been the president of the Save Honolua Coalition for six-plus years.
"This is only the beginning for Maui. Our community will need to step up and work with the state on creating a sustainable, community-based management plan that respects Native Hawaiian practices and values and is inclusive of all stakeholders.
"We have come so far in the last eight years," Paltin continued, "and I hope people will continue to work together in the best interests of Honolua and embrace the concept of stewardship over self-interest."
Daniel L. Ornellas is the district land agent with the state Department of Land & Natural Resources in the Maui District Land Office.
He outlined the next step.
"For now, we're just gonna keep things even-keeled. We want to engage in a planning process with the community to envision how we can use this property. Until that is decided, it's just gonna be the status quo and try to keep the place as clean and as safe as possible."