Public-private partnership safeguards North Shore farmland

Photo courtesy Sean Davey

Officials with federal, state, and county government, as well as private non-profit organizations, announced Monday they have recorded a Grant of Conservation Easement that permanently protects 468 acres of farmland in Kahuku on Oahu’s North Shore.

This effort was the result of collaboration between the private landowners of Turtle Bay Resort, The Trust for Public Land, the North Shore Community Land Trust, the City and County of Honolulu, the State of Hawaii and the United States Army.

With the makai conservation effort that closed in October 2015, over 1,200 acres of North Shore land are now permanently protected from future development.

Known as Kuilima Farms and owned by Turtle Bay Mauka Lands, LLC, a subsidiary of Turtle Bay Resort, this vast parcel of land is located across from the Turtle Bay Resort entrance on Kamehameha Highway at the bottom of the Koolau mountain range foothills.

The property is currently agricultural-zoned and being utilized by 12 farming operations to grow crops for public consumption and commercial commerce. The farmers are currently working the land by growing fruits and vegetables, including bananas, papayas, basil, tomatoes, eggplant and taro.

In addition to permanently dedicating the land to agriculture, the landowner will also be offering to license smaller community and business incubation farm lots, and has set aside a two-mile strip along Kamehameha Highway for a future pedestrian and bike path.

The agricultural zoning designation can never be altered under the conservation easement and the easement restricts residential dwelling units from being built, even if the property changes ownership.

The conservation easement agreement for the 468 acres was completed for a cost of $6 million. The Trust for Public Land secured funding from special land conservation programs, with $3 million from the U.S. Army, $1.5 million from the State of Hawaii, and $1.5 million from the City and County of Honolulu.

The conservation easement allows Turtle Bay Resort to make a long-term commitment to agriculture, including essential infrastructure improvements in accordance with a master plan that both expands its farm operations and incorporates food production and education into the overall resort experience.

Turtle Bay Resort’s master plan envisions a high-efficiency agricultural operation using natural farming methods that supports improved food production for the North Shore and promotes food safety and food security for Oahu and environmental conservation.

The master plan features an increase in the number of farming operations to grow a wider range of crops, establishment of a model farm to supply produce for the resort, creation of a farmers market for the public’s enjoyment, and an expansion of farm-to-table dining and social events.

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