State receives million dollar donation for trails in planned forest reserve
KAHULUI — An anonymous donor is providing more than $1 million in funding to the Na Ala Hele Trails and Access Program on Maui. Most of the funding will support planning, design and construction of hiking trails in the recently acquired Kamehamenui Forest in Upcountry Maui.
State Department of Land & Natural Resources (DLNR) Chair Suzanne Case said, “Both Governor David Ige and I are extremely thankful to the people who are providing funding for one of our most important recreational programs… the Na Ala Hele system. When I first learned of this news, my initial reaction was, ‘Holy smokes — that’s great news indeed.’ “
Good news has been in short supply most of this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. David Smith, administrator of DLNR’s Division of Forestry and Wildlife (DOFAW), commented, “As everyone knows, due to extreme state budget tightening, we are going to see funding for many programs languish, potentially for years to come. The Na Ala Hele system is one of the most visible recreational benefits we provide local residents and visitors alike. This allows us to bring more miles into play.”
The program plans to use the funds to build new trails at Kamehamenui. Its 3,433 acres were recently acquired by the state through the Trust for Public Land, which purchased the property from a private trust. DOFAW plans to add the property to the Forest Reserve System.
A community-based management plan is being developed, and in addition to the ecological services the area will provide, Kamehamenui is intended to provide new recreational opportunities on Maui with hiking trails, places to picnic and places to grow and gather forest products.
Scott Fretz, DOFAW Maui Branch Manager, summed up DLNR’s feelings by saying, “This is a once in a lifetime donation and we are tremendously humbled and grateful to this donor.
“They clearly care deeply about opportunities for people to get outdoors and experience our forests and coastlines. People have asked me how they can thank the donors for this great gift. I tell them the donors are anonymous, but they are avid hikers and you will see them out on the trails. When you do, give them a big smile and a shaka.”