The Nature Conservancy has donated 34 acres of land in east Maui to the National Park Service, which officials say will be used to create a “gateway” to the Kīpahulu portion of Haleakalā National Park.
The 34-acre parcel sits directly above the coastal highway on the Hana side of ‘Ohe‘o Gulch at Kīpahulu. The land was bequeathed to The Nature Conservancy in 2005 from the Estate of Cordelia May.
“We owe a debt of gratitude to Cordelia May and to The Nature Conservancy for the donation of this land,” said Haleakalā National Park Superintendent M. Sarah Creachbaum. “With it, we will be able to greatly improve access to the park. It will enable us to create an official gateway to Kīpahulu and showcase the park’s entrance.”
Currently, there is no formal entrance to the Kīpahulu portion of the park. Visitors arriving along the Hana Highway round the bend at ‘Ohe‘o Gulch and suddenly find they are in the park. “Right now, the entrance to the park begins as you approach the bridge across the gulch,” Creachbaum said. “This piece of land will provide an important buffer for the park. It gives us the opportunity to let people know they are entering the park.”
There are also other benefits. For one, the parcel will protect access to upland parts of the park that are being used to educate the public about traditional cultural practices through the Kīpahulu ‘Ohana demonstration taro farm at Kapahu. In addition, the parcel will provide a critical vehicle pull-off from the coastal highway prior to the approach to ‘Ohe‘o Gulch, assisting with traffic congestion at the ‘Ohe‘o Bridge.
Suzanne Case, Hawai‘i executive director for The Nature Conservancy, said the Conservancy’s interest in the parcel dates to 1980. Back then, the organization asked May to consider a gift of the property with the understanding that the Conservancy would donate it to Haleakalā National Park. Upon her death 25 years later, that’s exactly what May did. “
"Knowing this history, we felt a special obligation to honor our commitment,” Case said. “That’s why we are donating the property and not selling it.”
“It is with deep gratitude that we remember the late Cordelia May, whose bequest made this donation possible,” said Nature Conservancy of Hawai‘i Board Chair Duncan MacNaughton. “She was a caring and committed philanthropist and conservationist – an ardent birder who personally understood the need to protect Hawaiian forests.”
Mrs. May's legacy continues to serve environmental and conservation causes through the foundations she established, the Colcom Foundation and Laurel Foundation, based in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
Case also thanked the Conservation Fund, which was involved in early negotiations over the property and helped ensure that the parcel was donated to the National Park Service and not sold to a private entity.
Dubbed “May’s Mauka,” the 34-acre parcel is mostly pastureland covered by non-native trees and grasses. The land does not hold significant biodiversity value, but it does have value as open space, provides access to culturally significant sites, and is contiguous with other National Park Service lands at Kīpahulu. For these reasons, the Park Service determined the property to be an important addition to Haleakalā National Park.
According to Case, the Kīpahulu portion of Haleakalā National Park was the Conservancy’s first project in Hawai‘i. In the late 1960s and early 1970s, the Conservancy raised $1 million to purchase lands in Kīpahulu Valley for addition to the park. The Conservancy first donated the 3,717-acre upper valley intact native forest to the national park, which today forms an important part of the East Maui Watershed Partnership. A private landowner and the State joined with the Conservancy and donated land to create and expand Haleakalā National Park, so that it would eventually stretch from the mountain to the sea.
Today, thousands of visitors enjoy the beauty of Pipiwai and Palikea streams as they cascade through a series of basins within ‘Ohe‘o Gulch at Kīpahulu. The streams are home to many unique species of plants, fish, and invertebrates. High above the streams, pristine native forest on the upper slopes of Haleakalā protects critical watersheds and habitat for several endangered forest bird species, rare plants, and a variety of spiders and insects.
May’s Mauka is the second parcel donated to the Conservancy by Cordelia May. The first, a 35-acre Kīpahulu coastal property, was sold with conservation restrictions to Sue Wong in 2007.
Wong, a successful Los Angeles-based fashion designer with strong ties to the Kīpahulu community, paid $3.6 million for the land. Those funds are now being used to protect the native forests of east Maui, as well as other important forestlands across the state.
The Nature Conservancy is a leading conservation organization working around the world to protect ecologically important lands and waters for nature and people. The Conservancy and its more than 1 million members have protected nearly 120 million acres worldwide. Visit The Nature Conservancy on the Web at www.nature.org.