State Buys Hamakua Hillside

The hills above Hamakua marsh now are owned by the state in an agreement that preserves them as part of a healthy watershed that will nourish the marsh and its endangered wildlife for decades to come.

Kaneohe Ranch and the state Department of Land and Natural Re-sources formalized the sale Feb. 13 in the parking lot that faces the marsh, noting that more improvements lie ahead to make the area welcoming to both birds and humans.

Located at the entrance to Kailua town, the 67.18-acre hillside parcel once was proposed for a retirement complex on its makai slope. Now it will continue to function naturally to feed the marsh, draining rainwater via its gullies and guiding it into the marshlands and eventually to the sea.

According to project documents, the DLNR will restore and reforest its new wetlands to create better nesting areas for the waterbirds and migratory shorebirds. Also ahead, an interpretive trail for the public that will offer a panoramic view of the area.

“The Hamakua Hillside area is one of the last green spaces in urban Kailua,” stated Russell Tsuji, administrator of the land division for the state Division of Forestry and Wildlife, in describing the project. “It forms the backdrop for Hamakua Marsh Wildlife Sanctuary, a popular spot for wildlife viewing.” He also noted that the already-restored view plane into the marsh is providing “inspiration for many of the urban design considerations in Kailua town, integrating the wildlife sanctuary with the local community.”

Price tag for the land was $1.17 million, with the state paying $450,000 and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Recovery Land Acquisition Program $720,000 to Kaneohe Ranch. Also involved in the overall restoration are Ducks Unlimited, Natural Resources Conservation Service, Pacific Coast Joint Venture, Kailua Urban Design Task Force, Kalama Land Co. Ltd. and local schoolchildren.

For a youthful, virtual perspective on KawainuiHamakua Marsh Complex – the largest wetland in Hawaii and a Ramsar Wetland of International Importance – visit