Ala Kahakai Trail Association Experience with
Ownership and Stewardship

Kaiholena, Hawaii

Kaiholena, Hawaii


The Ala Kahakai Trail Association is a member of the Partnership for the National Trail System (PNTS), which is comprised of organizations directly linked to each of the 30 National Historic and Scenic Trails within the National Trails System.  The organization’s sole mission is to advocate on the behalf of the National Trails System as a whole for land preservation and stewardship resources.  This includes connecting member trail organizations with Federal agency partners to further the preservation, protection and maintenance of its trails.  

ATA was the first of all PNTS members to have purchased property in order to preserve a section of the trail. We believe that ownership affords the highest level of protection of this fragile resource.   

Efforts to protect and manage the Trail along the course of its approximately 175 miles from ‘Upolu Point on the northern tip ofHawai‘i Island down the Kona Coast and around South Point to the eastern boundary of Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park have been faced with many challenges, the most difficult being development on or near the trail corridor.  In many cases, there have been developments built over the trail or buildings encroaching upon the trail.

In late 2015, ATA purchased a 35-acre coastal parcel of the Kaiholena Ahupua’a, district of North Kohala. The acquisition, which was made possible with the support and assistance of the State Legacy Land Commission, was part of a larger effort to protect a total of six parcels in Kaiholena which were at risk of being developed.  ATA was especially concerned about impacts to the many cultural sites, sensitive marine resources, and Trail sections that are found on these properties. The acquisition of these parcels contributed to over seven miles of continuous protection of the Trail, public access to the shoreline and undisturbed view planes.  Land ownership has been a new experience and in this case, a very helpful part of protecting the Trail and its surrounding resources.  We are now in the process of establishing partnerships with local community organizations and public agencies to manage and care for the land.  We are also coordinating efforts with the community to utilize the property for educational opportunities by local schools such as Waimea Middle School. 

Another large focus of ATA’s stewardship work involves physical stewardship of the trail.  We actively support on-going projects to clear and maintain four (4) separate sections of the trail. With ATA support, three volunteer community groups have been actively clearing and maintaining trails for nearly ten years and just this year, we were able to support a fourth group.  

Community engagement is also an important form of indirect stewardship.  ATA has recently worked with community groups to address issues along the trail at areas including Kailapa, Puako, Aloha Aina Kiholo, Hookena and the larger Kohala community to name a few.  Earlier this year, the Association assisted the Ka'u community in its efforts to protect ‘iwi kupuna and endangered plants along the trail at Ka Lae (South Point).  The Association provided guidance, financial assistance and manpower to survey coastal plant populations and to design and implement signage for the protection of these cultural and natural resources.  As we grow and build relationships, additional Hawai'i Island communities are now seeking our assistance to preserve and protect trails and other resources. Because of the desire to protect both cultural and environmental resources surrounding coastal and mauka-makai trails, communities are recognizing the value of Hawai'i’s historic trail network and its connection to both our past and our future.