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Hala Tree Planting Marks Bill Passing

Following the official signing of HB 2434, a hala tree was planted May 19 at Kawela Bay by (from left) Turtle Bay Resort CEO Drew Stotesbury, Doug Cole of North Shore Community Land Trust, Lea Hong of The Trust for Public Land, city chief of staff Ray Soon, state Sen. Clayton Hee (Waialua, Laie, Heeia) and Gov. Neil Abercrombie. Similar hala tree plantings took place at Kahuku Point to create a symbolic connection between the resort's open lands. Photo from Turtle Bay Resort.

Following the official signing of HB 2434, a hala tree was planted May 19 at Kawela Bay by (from left) Turtle Bay Resort CEO Drew Stotesbury, Doug Cole of North Shore Community Land Trust, Lea Hong of The Trust for Public Land, city chief of staff Ray Soon, state Sen. Clayton Hee (Waialua, Laie, Heeia) and Gov. Neil Abercrombie. Similar hala tree plantings took place at Kahuku Point to create a symbolic connection between the resort’s open lands. Photo from Turtle Bay Resort.

Though small in symbolic terms, the hala tree planted May 19 at Kawela Bay represents the end of a long struggle to free up hundreds of acres of shoreline for preservation, forever.

Though much remains to be done – convention center refinancing, fundraising, underwriting bonds, and appraising the 665.8-acre conservation easement – House Bill 2434 becomes Act 81, the law of the land, on July 1.

“What makes this conservation easement so gratifying is that it accounts for so many diverse voices in its fulfillment,” said Turtle Bay Resort CEO Drew Stotesbury, “from our top leaders in government to the kupuna and lifelong residents of Koolauloa, all of whom only want what’s best for the North Shore and its future generations.”

Stotesbury pointed out that through the complex negotiation process, the resort has agreed to reduce its hotel and housing unit plans to just 20 percent of its original permit, though the job outlook for local residents remains good.

The conservation easement covers nearly 79 percent of the open-space lands owned by Turtle Bay Resort and was secured for $48.5 million, with $40 million to come from the State of Hawaii, $5 million from the City and County of Honolulu, and $3.5 million from The Trust for Public Land.

The indigenous hala tree, ideal for stabilizing sandy soil, was planted by six people who played key roles in the process. They also signed the bill that day at the idyllic bay site: Gov. Neil Abercrombie, state Sen. Clayton Hee (Waialua, Laie, Heeia), TPL’s Lea Hong, city chief of staff Ray Soon, Doug Cole of North Shore Community Land Trust, and Stotesbury.

North Shore music and a blessing rounded out the program.

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