Style Shoot at Sunset Ranch

Cédric Charlier dress, $895, Saks Fifth Avenue. Marques Marzan Merino wool felt. Kuana Torres Kahele Niihua shell lei and earrings. Model: Cassidy Alexei.

Style:  Hawaiian Fashion for the Modern Woman

How to mix designer and traditional Hawaii pieces this season.

By Daeja Fallas and Lindsey Higa                May 1, 2017

In Hawaiian, ui means beautiful—a word that evokes elegance and grace, and with so little. It's the source of inspiration in this fashion feature that blends modern, designer and traditional Hawaiian fashion to make a bright and alluring statement.

Shot on location at Sunset Ranch on the North Shore, Oahu-based photographer Daeja Fallas and stylist Lindsey Higa offer stylish looks for the modern woman, showcasing this season's designer looks and shining a light on Hawaii-based designers and artisans.

hawaii fashion
Chanel brow pencil, L'Oreal mascara, Urban Decay eyeliner. Makeup by Risa Hoshino.
hawaii fashion
Marni top, $990, and Alice + Olivia pant, $295, Saks Fifth Avenue. Coco's Trading Post hat and paper lei, vintage,
hawaii fashion
Matt Bruening crest top, $200, Meleana Estes flower lei poo,
hawaii designer fashion
Stella McCartney blazer, $1,795, Saks Fifth Avenue. DKNY pant, $498, Neiman Marcus. Hana Hou lauhala clutch, vintage, Coco's Trading Post kukui nut lei, vintage,
hawaii fashion
MAC lipstick, Madina Milano highlighter, Chanel bronzer.
hawaii fashion
Rag & Bone dress, $495, Neiman Marcus. Marques Marzan lei hulu (feather),

Sunset Ranch in Hawaii Magazine

Inside North Shore's Sunset Ranch: Cultural tours, weddings and dreamy views

A historic ranch house preserves and perpetuates this beautiful landscape.

By Matthew Dekneef                April 7, 2017

You could call it untouched today, tomorrow and forever. On the North Shore of Oahu, quietly looming at 900 feet above sea level over Pupukea, an illustrious ranch house has helped tell the stories of natural conservation, Hawaiian culture, local farming practices and modern day weddings, and will in perpetuity.

This is Sunset Ranch, a sprawling 30-acre property, which has a stake in keeping its manicured pastures completely undeveloped so all of Hawaii’s residents and visitors can enjoy this region of the North Shore, mainly through educational tours and events.

“My goal here is to share a message of sustainability and advance its efforts,” Greg Pietsch, the owner of Sunset Ranch, says, nodding at the vast yellow-gold fields through the picture window of a dining room. Off to the left, a fishpond ripples, waiting to be turned into a farmable aquaculture operation. To the right, an animal psychologist walks a stallion over a hillside as part of its required monthly checkups on site.

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The ranch grounds are sought after as a wedding locale throughout the year. Photo courtesy: Sunset Ranch Hawaii

We’re in the property’s 1970s plantation-style ranch house, the centerpiece of its grounds, which at this moment also doubles as Pietsch’s workspace. Leaning against the walls are poster-size blueprints of Sunset Ranch and the Pupukea ahupuaa (land divison), demarcating the region’s boundaries with notes referencing complicated state zoning laws written in the margins.

For a layman like me, these annotations fly way over my head, but for Hawaii conservationists and politicians, it’s what Pietsch is most known for. Twelve years ago, his negotiations with the state of Hawaii and the Trust for Public Land in turning the land into a private conservation easement that prohibits any development here has set a precedent and become a model for other landowners interested in doing the same. For this reason, Pietsch appropriately refers to the ranch as “a passion and a labor of love.”

“The tours we offer are the most effective way to tell that story,” Pietsch says, believing it integral to team up with local organizations to share its land-based narratives. “We want to get the community engaged and excited. There’s been a lot of growth in the past three years.”

Currently, Sunset Ranch hosts 120 events a year, 70 percent of them being weddings. It’s very easy to see why. Stately stallions graze in the meadows. The sky, approaching the five o’clock hour is a copper color hue. A cliffside lookout over Haleiwa is sheltered with more than 150 varieties of Hawaiian ferns. Sunset Ranch is a fairy tale landscape.

Most distinguished, though, are its stables, a space that can be outfitted as a decorous event space. Decked out with long, wooden dining tables and a hanging glass chandelier, the location is truly love at first sight for brides and grooms looking for an unmatched wedding venue.

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In the fern forest, a wedding ceremony complete and Hawaiian music. Photos courtesy: Sunset Ranch Hawaii

My first visit to the ranch occurred on the tours Pietsch speaks so enthusiastically about. Last year I found myself on two of them: The Sunset Ranch Wellness Tour, a nature walk through the grounds; and the Farm-To-Table Experience, which ends with a locally sourced three-course meal in a botanical garden.

On the former, Hawaiian culture leads the wellness narrative. Our guide, Tristan Reynolds, a founder and the farmer of Hawaiian Fresh Farms, invites us to a spread of endemic and indigenous plants used in laau lapaau, the Native Hawaiian practice of herbal medicines. Later, under the shade of a cool forest nestled mauka (toward the mountain) of Sunset Ranch, Reynolds explains how Hawaiians used the sap of the alaa, an endemic tree, to trap colorful native birds, pluck a feather or two to create feathered capes for the alii (royals), then release the animals back into nature. My fondest memory is later venturing into a hillside spilling into Waimea Valley to plant an alaa seedling. As part of the reforestation, people in our tour group kneel at the tree’s muted green oblong leaves, taking turns pouring water into its soil as Reynolds offers an oli (chant) for its growth. Unexpectedly, Sunset Ranch has become one of the most beautiful classrooms I’ve attended in my adult life.

Sunset Ranch continues to branch into assisting the nonprofit sector by creating unique initiatives that serves the local community. “Everything we do is therapeutic and leadership-based,” he says, of the various programs it’s since created with the Wounded Warrior Project, Boy and Girl Scouts and nonprofits serving keiki (children) with autism and life-threatening illnesses. In collaboration with HUGS, a familial support group for seriously ill children, Sunset Ranch assists with a program to grow native koa trees on property in memory of children who’ve passed on, becoming a place their parents continue to visit over the years.

What’s next for Sunset Ranch? Pietsch’s dream is to make its infrastructure a completely sustainable food resource for all its events programming and tours, “and to get off the grid with power and water too,” he says. “We’re hoping to do all that in the next three to four years. We want to establish this place as a model or platform.”

For tour information, call (808) 638-8333 or visit

Perpetual AG at Sunset Ranch

HONOLULU, June 30, 2015—During International Year of Soil, this month is dedicated to raise awareness on how soils support recreation. At Sunset Ranch in Pupukea, the 27-acre property is home to a horse ranch, coffee plantation, citrus orchard, mixed produce farm, aquaculture, and botanical garden. Of the 27 acres, 12 are dedicated to pasture with five acres of riding field for their specialized program that incorporates horses for personal growth, learning, and healing.

Sunset Ranch is one of few agricultural operations that have conveyed a perpetual agricultural conservation easement to the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) in partnership with the North Shore Community Land Trust and the City and County of Honolulu. The property was preserved for agriculture through the Farm and Ranch Protection Program (FRPP) which is now incorporated under the Agricultural Conservation Easement Program (ACEP) administered by NRCS and authorized by the 2014 Farm Bill.


In addition to the preservation of this agricultural land, Sunset Ranch has a conservation plan with NRCS and the West Oahu Soil and Water Conservation District. The plan includes integrated pest management, micro irrigation, mulching, critical area planting, prescribed grazing, and heavy use area protection. These conservation practices will help to reduce erosion, protect water quality, and manage weeds.

"This is a wonderful example of how an agricultural easement has protected prime agricultural land and helped diversify operations on a ranch known for its equine training and therapy programs, as well as its scenic views," stated Bruce Petersen, NRCS Director of the Pacific Islands Area. NRCS is the federal agency that provides voluntary technical assistance for conservation and restoration of natural resources on private agricultural lands. Established in 1935 as a response to the Dust Bowl, the Soil Conservation Service (SCS) evolved to the Natural Resources Conservation Service to protect, restore and enhance soil, water, air, plants, and animal resources, with human social, economic and cultural considerations. In 1937 Soil Conservation Associations, now called Soil and Water Conservation Districts (SWCD), were authorized by President Roosevelt to act as local partners to the Federal SCS, and can plan and carry out local programs for soil conservation, flood prevention, water management, outdoor recreation, and other purposes within their boundaries. Hawaii has 16 SWCD’s on eight islands.

NRCS, SWCD, and conservation cooperators such as Sunset Ranch, have been dedicated to conserving and enhancing the natural resources on private agricultural properties for decades, and this means starting with the soils that support and enable agricultural production and recreational activities, such as found at Sunset Ranch. To learn more about the programs and services of NRCS, and how we are celebrating International Year of Soils, visit USDA is an equal opportunity provider and employer.

Jolene Lau Public Affairs Specialist Natural Resources Conservation Service United States Department of Agriculture 300 Ala Moana Blvd., #4-118 Honolulu, HI 96850 (808) 541-2600 ext. 135

Fern's Garden at Sunset Ranch

At Sunset Ranch, we continue to work hard to expand our botanical garden elements.  We hope to continue to add more and more native species throughout the property.  Moreover, in honor of the owner's grandmother, Fern, we have officially dedicated a portion of the property to her memory:  Fern's Garden.

Thank you to Kay Lynch and Waimea Valley for making our vision of Fern's Garden a reality.  Kay helped assist with clearing and planting thirteen native fern species in our garden this past month!  We look forward to continued efforts with Kay to manage and build our native fern collection.  She, after all, is the expert!

Fern's Garden_Kay LynchFern'sGarden

Native Tree Planting

We are absolutely thrilled to introduce our Native Tree planting program at Sunset Ranch. Concurrent with the launch of our Site Tour Experiences, our guests are now provided the unique opportunity to plant a native tree in the mauka regions of Waimea Valley (and in some cases Sunset Ranch), all in the spirit of land conservation and forest restoration.  A portion of proceeds will be donated to the land conservation cause in Hawaii.

The Native Tree planting program was made possible by an operating agreement with Hi'ipaka, LLC, the owner and operator of Waimea Valley.  As a result, Sunset Ranch guests are provided exclusive access to newly cleared trails and lookouts in the mauka regions of the valley.  We have just recently begun to eradicate invasive plants and trees as we thoughtfully reintroduce native plants with the objective of meaningfully advancing forest restoration in this region of the North Shore.

Legacy TreesCertificate of Recognition

Site Tour Experiences are provided exclusively in partnership with Hawaiian Fresh Farms, and are made by reservation ONLY.  Availability can be found on the calendar at the Book NOW tab.  Please book here online.  If you require more information, please contact us at (808)638-8333 or [email protected].  Mahalo nui loa for your support!

The Ultimate Hike

The Ultimate Hike is offered Sundays and Tuesdays from 11:00 AM to 2:00 PM and 3:00 PM to 6:00 PM. This is an opportunity to access private trails and lookouts in Waimea Valley, learn about the history Sunset Ranch, the valley and enjoy a locally sourced lunch and Hawaiian story-telling. For an additional fee of $40, visitors can also plant a native tree and receive a certificate for their contribution to forest restoration in Hawaii.

Reservation ONLY. #SunsetRanchHawaii #SiteTourExperiences #TheUltimateHike Book NOW on-line, or contact us at [email protected] or (808)638-8333. Mahalo nui loa for your support!

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The Perfect Picnic

The Perfect Picnic is offered Sundays and Tuesdays from 10:00 AM to 12:00 PM, 12:00 PM to 2:00 PM, 2:00 PM to 4:00 PM and 4:00 PM to 6:00 PM. This is a unique experience that provides couples exclusive access to Sunset Ranch to learn about the history of the property and enjoy a locally sourced picnic at one of six pre-designated locations around the property.

Reservation ONLY.  #SunsetRanchHawaii #SiteTourExperiences #ThePerfectPicnic  Book NOW on-line, or contact us at [email protected] or (808)638-8333. Mahalo nui loa for your support!

The Perfect Picnic_1_website

The Farm-To-Table Experience

The Farm-To-Table Experience is offered every Thursday from 11:00 AM to 2:00 PM and from 3:00 PM to 6:00 PM. This unique and authentic Hawaiian experience includes an elegant tour around Sunset Ranch and an exquisite four course meal in a botanical garden setting with ocean and mountain views.

Reservation ONLY.  #SunsetRanchHawaii #SiteTourExperiences #TheFarmToTableExperience  Book NOW on-line, or contact us at [email protected] or (808)638-8333. Mahalo nui loa for your support!



Aquaculture at Sunset Ranch!

Aloha!  We want to provide a quick update on Charlie's Pond.  In a previous blog a while back, we provided the details of all of the work behind the complete restoration of the pond. Subsequent stabilization and careful management, we then introduced tilapia to begin to establish it as an official aquaculture site.  This was also a long and involved process.  All that said, we have some great news to share:  it was all well worth it!  We are VERY happy to share that the tilapia continue to thrive and we currently estimate between 500 and 600 healthy fish.  While the management of the approximate 50,000 gallon pond is no easy task, Charlie's Pond has never looked better and we're encouraged by the healthy fish production.

Here is a recent pic of Charlie's Pond.  The small fountain you see was recently added to further enhance aeration provided by the running stream.  Please contact us if you'd like to learn more about our efforts in this regard.  Mahalo nui loa for your support!


Coffee at Sunset Ranch

We're extremely excited to announce that we're committing several acres of our upper pasture to coffee farming.  The coffee farming area will be incorporated into our Environmental Learning Center at the southern most part of the property.  The remainder of the upper pasture will continue to be used for our horsemanship programs, and uses as related to Sunset Stables.

The upper pasture sits at about a 950 foot elevation.  That, combined with an annual rainfall of approximately 60 inches per year, provides for a decent environment for coffee farming.  The upper pasture is also somewhat protected from high wind conditions by the surrounding ironwood and eucalyptus trees.  We've targeted the Arabica species of coffee for its richness in flavor, and will be growing the following two varieties:

1.  Blue Mountain.  The Blue Mountain variety is well known for originating in regions of Jamaica.  That said, it has been growing in Hawaii for many, many decades.  Technically, Blue Mountain is a mutation of Arabica Typica and is a tall growing tree.  While the cherry yield isn't as great as some other varieties, it provides a superb richness in flavor and is often used in various blends; and

2.  Red Catuai.  The Red "Cat" is a hybrid of Mundo Novo and Caturra and originated in Brazil in the late 1940's.  This variety is common in Hawaii and provides an extremely high yield.  These trees do not grow as tall, but can be much fuller than other varieties.  The Red Cats are also known for the richness in flavor.

Here is a picture of some year old coffee trees at Sunset Ranch!

Coffee Trees_2

While one could argue that the rainfall is sufficient to manage our small coffee farm; we have decided to install a drip line system throughout this dedicated area in order to best manage the dry summer months.  The water system will be completed, and all remaining trees will planted, this summer.  We'll keep you posted on their growth!  We can't wait for our first harvest!

Lychee at Sunset Ranch

We're excited to announce that we just planted twelve new dwarf lychee trees around the perimeter of Sunset Meadow.  This is one of our favorite fruit trees, and we're so excited to be adding this variety to our existing fruit tree collection at Sunset Ranch.

As many of you may be aware, lychee is a tropical and subtropical fruit native to China, and now successfully cultivated in many parts of the world.  Lychee has a beautiful brightly colored pinkish / reddish hard shell with a delicate, white pulpy fruit interior.  Due to the flavor often being lost in the canning process, lychee is most often eaten fresh from the shell.  Lychees are used in a variety of dessert dishes, including ice cream - our favorite!


Fruit Trees at Sunset Ranch

We continue to add more and more fruits trees around Sunset Ranch! Our most recent additions include adding to the clusters of trees along the perimeter of Sunset Meadow.  We plan to continue to expand these areas throughout this region of the property. Here is what we're currently planting around Sunset Meadow:

1.  Washington Naval Orange

The Washington Navel Orange was imported into the United States in 1870.  The trees were propagated upon their arrival and then sent to regions of the country where it was thought they might flourish.  More specifically, California and Florida. While the trees in Florida didn't do well, they thrived in California.  They have been grown in Hawaii for several decades and we hope to have good success with them at Sunset Ranch.  The fruit is seedless, easy to peel (which we love!) and fruits quickly.  So far the trees are thriving at Sunset Ranch and we're excited to have them as a new addition.

washington naval orange

2. Clementine

A Clementine is a hybrid between a mandarin orange and a sweet orange.  The fruit was brought to California in the early 1900's and grown commercially.  Clementines have been grown  in limited quantities throughout Hawaii for many years.  Similar to our Washington Naval Oranges, they are easy to peel and seedless!  We love this fruit for its sweet and juicy flavor.  While we have to manage the bugs carefully; so far they're doing very well at Sunset Ranch.


3. Tahitian Lime

Also commonly referred to as a Persian lime (originating from the Far East), the Tahitian lime was introduced into the United States in the late 1800s.  A seedless variety was developed in California around this time as well.  And this is the variety we have at Sunset Ranch.  We love NO seeds!  This particular variety also has a uniquely fragrant and spicy aroma.  They are also less acidic than key limes and not nearly as bitter tasting.  These trees are thriving at the ranch, and bugs don't appear to be as big of a problem.

tahitian lime

4. Meyer Lemon

The Meyer Lemon is a citrus fruit that is native to China, and likely a cross between a 'true' lemon and some variety of orange.  This fruit was also introduced to the United States in the early 1900s by the agricultural explorer Frank Meyer.  While considered more of an ornamental tree in China; it is now a popular food item in the Unites States.  Meyer Lemons have been in Hawaii for quite some time too.  The Meyer Lemon has a sweeter, less acidic taste as compared to the common lemon.  While bugs seem to be especially attracted to these trees; we're watching them carefully!

meyer lemon

We'll continue to keep you posted as we add more and more fruit trees at Sunset Ranch.  We just received some new avocados and lychee that we hope to be planting soon!  Feel free to contact us at any time for a site tour or for more information!  Mahalo nui loa for your continued support!

North Shore News: Pupukea Ranch

This article was published in the January 22, 2014 issue of the North Shore News.  While there is still quite a bit of work to do before this land is perpetually protected; we're excited about recent progress.  Please contact us with any and all questions or concerns regarding this project, or if you'd like additional details.  (808)638-8333 or [email protected] Mahalo nui loa for your continued support!

(Please note that the mention of "hunters" and "mountain bikers" having access to the land donated by A Charitable Foundation Corp is an error.  While the public will eventually have access to these lands; access will not be for these uses.  We apologize for any confusion this may have caused.)


Pupukea Ranch: "Talk Story on the Land"

Aloha!  Please join us for a tour of Pupukea Ranch on May 3, 2014 from 10:00 AM to 1:00 PM to partake in a new series of educational hikes sponsored by the Hawaiian Islands Land Trust (HILT):  "Talk Story on the Land".  This is a great opportunity for you to ask any questions or concerns you may have regarding the protection and use of these lands.  You will also have a chance to meet Bill Howes from Kolea Farms, and learn about his efforts to establish a permaculture farm on site.  The hike is completely FREE!  RSVP: Christine Aiu, Oahu Island Director, at (808)244-5263 or [email protected].  We're meeting at Pu'u O Mahuka at 10:00 AM sharp. We hope to see you there!

The Ultimate Sunset Ranch Experience

Sunset Ranch is excited to make the following exclusive experience available to clients, as requested.  Visitors will have access to the thirty acre estate for an experience like no other in Hawaii.  They will enjoy breathtaking ocean and island views while relaxing with family and friends, learning about land conservation and sustainability in Hawaii, capturing the spirit of the ranch through art, and enjoying a three course farm-to-table meal.  Here is a brief summary of the The Ultimate Sunset Ranch Experience (4 hours):

Station #1: Welcome to Sunset Ranch!

Guests will first be greeted by our Sunset Ranch staff at Sunset Stables.  They will then depart on a Victorian horse carriage for a beautiful ride out to Sunset Meadow.  Sunset Meadow is a five acre expanse home to our giant eucalyptus tree and spectacular ocean and island views of the North Shore of Oahu.    Here guests will meet a few more members of our ranch family, including Teddy (pony) and Lilly (goat), and learn about the history of Sunset Ranch, the surrounding land area, and the importance of land conservation in Hawaii today.  They will also receive brochures on the federal, state and county programs used to protect the ranch, in addition to the organizations leading Hawaii's land conservation charge, including: The Trust for Public Land (TPL), The North Shore Community Land Trust (NSCLT) and the Hawaiian Islands Land Trust (HILT).  Before departing for their next station, guests will learn all about our equine family and the wide range of horsemanship programs available to visitors and the local community.  Take a VIRTUAL TOUR of Sunset Meadow.

Station #2: Capture the Spirit of Sunset Ranch!

From Sunset Meadow, visitors will walk or take a horse carriage ride to Sunset Vista and Charlie's Pond.  Here they'll have the opportunity to relax, explore and  capture the spirit of Sunset Ranch through art and photography.  Each guest will have their own work station that includes an easel, canvas, pastels, oil-based paints and other materials.  Guests will also break out for photo shoot sessions with our on-site photographer to capture their special time with us.  Refreshing drinks and appetizers will also be served at this station while guests relax and enjoy the serenity of the ranch.  Take a VIRTUAL TOUR of Sunset Vista and Charlie's Pond.


Station #3: Farm-to-Table at Sunset Ranch!

After capturing the spirit of Sunset Ranch, guests will work their way to Fern's Garden where they'll learn about the importance of sustainability in Hawaii.  More specifically, guests will learn how worm casting bins and aquaponics systems are affordable, easy to use, and can realistically provide a regular source of food.  Guests will also meet a local farmer and have an opportunity to learn about, plant and propagate native Hawaiian plants.  To complete the tour, guests will be served a plated three course farm-to-table meal, sourced by North Shore farmers and prepared by our Chef.  Fern's Garden provides a beautiful setting for visitors to learn and dine amidst our many native Hawaiian flora and fauna. Take a VIRTUAL TOUR of Fern's Garden.

Prior to their departure, guests will receive a Sunset Ranch gift basket full of local North Shore products, educational brochures, their painting and a picture of their experience!  Other Sunset Ranch products and a complete CD ROM of their photo shoot will also be available for an additional charge.

We believe you'll find these tours exciting and informative.  Our goal is to provide a unique and memorable experience that isn't otherwise offered in Hawaii today.  And as with all of our efforts at Sunset Ranch, we’re offering these Site Tours in the interest of advancing land conservation and sustainability in Hawaii.  Call us at (808)638-8333 or e-mail us at [email protected] to schedule a site tour today.  You can also contact us through our web-site on our Contact tab.  Mahalo nui loa for your interest and support!

Aquaponics at Sunset Ranch!

We're excited to share that we recently completed the build out of a small aquaponics station in Fern's Garden.  While we're still working out the details of the greater vision that is our Environmental Learning Center (ELC); we believe this little station provides a great start to fulfilling one element of our mission: helping advance sustainability in Hawaii through educating visitors and the local community on highly productive farming methods.

The system you see in these pictures includes a 3' X 5' planting bed and a 500 gallon fish tank.  Together they provide up to 200 pounds of fish and 400 to 600 heads of lettuce, leafy crops or other vegetables per year.  We think most anyone would agree that such a level of production is quite impressive when you consider the size of the system.

What about the cost?  The materials for this particular system cost approximately $700.  This includes the cost of the pump and all of the plumbing.  The system is also very easy to set-up.  A beginner can have this system up and running within a couple of hours.  If one elects to have the system delivered and installed, the cost is $950.  Not bad.  This includes complete install, fish and starter crops.  While there are also monthly expenses to consider, thankfully they are nominal.  The monthly cost to operate this system ranges between $35 and $50 per month.  So the annual savings these systems provide is no doubt significant.  Perhaps more importantly, these systems teach people how to farm AND they make it FUN!

Contact us at (808)638-8333, or [email protected] to learn more about these great systems OR to order your system today.  Mahalo for your interest and support!

Anniversary Photo Shoots!

Introducing Anniversary photo shoots!  Did you get married at Sunset Ranch?  Are you celebrating your one year anniversary and looking for a great venue for a photo shoot?  Are you getting married in town, but just LOVE Sunset Ranch?  Whatever your reason....



Land Surrounding Pu'u O Mahuka

In the Spring of 2011, Sunset Ranch was contacted by the land owner of approximately 212 acres of land in Pupukea on the North Shore of Oahu.  As it turns out, the land is the largest remaining developable acreage in Pupukea, and surrounds one of Oahu's most important cultural sites:  Pu'u O Mahuka.  While existing zoning allows for a 77-lot subdivision; the land owner inquired about the possibilities of protecting the land.  The great thing about this story?  The land owner had visited Sunset Ranch, read about how Sunset Ranch was forever protected, and subsequently contacted us inquiring as to whether or not a conservation easement could work for him.  After several months of meetings, in addition to quite a bit of work to determine the value and structure of a possible deal, we're happy to say that the land owner has agreed to pursuing a conservation easement on the property.  Sunset Ranch is assisting the land owner through the entire process.

In order to understand just how important it is to protect this land, we want to provide you with the following "project value considerations": (i) Property History and Location, (ii) Conservation Plan (land owner's vision), (iii) Project Sponsorship, (iv) Preliminary Valuation and Deal Structure, and (v) Community Support.

(i) Property History and Location

We provide some good background on Pu'u O Mahuka in a previous blog.  We encourage you to read it so that you have a clear understanding of its place in Hawaiian history.  You can access the blog here.  As far as the history of the land surrounding Pu'u O Mahuka?  Our knowledge begins in the early part of the 20th century.  The land was primarily used for cattle ranching, pineapple farming and a mix of agricultural uses.  In recent decades past, less and less of the land was used for active agricultural purposes primarily due to the high costs associated with farming.  The economics simply didn't make sense for the previous land owner.  As a result, more and more of the land began to sit fallow and invasive plants slowly started to take over.  We are excited to now be working with the current land owner to:  (i) perpetually protect the land, and (ii) reestablish active agricultural and outdoor uses for the benefit of the community and public.

Please understand that the property has panoramic views of the entire northwest side of the island, and is surrounded by some of the largest preserves in Hawaii.  These characteristics alone, make this property of significant value, especially under a theoretical development scenario.  Here is a brief summary of the lands surrounding this special piece of property:

Pu’u O Mahuka is adjacent the Property on the west end of the bluff.  As stated previously, Pu’u O Mahuka is one of the most important cultural sites on Oahu and its importance is reason alone to protect the land surrounding it.  Pu'u O Mahuka was officially identified as a National Historic Landmark in 1962.  While the State of Hawaii, Parks Division, owns the heiau and a very small buffer around it; the land owner is agreeable to providing State Parks additional acreage around the heiau, something the State has been looking for since statehood. The additional buffer has already been identified and will not be included in the conservation easement.  This leaves approximately 195 acres for the conservation easement.

National Marine Sanctuary. The property is located just east of the National Marine Sanctuary and has spectacular unobstructed views of the entire area.   The Sanctuary is a conservation district (NOAA) that extends from Waimea Bay to Sharks Cove and slightly beyond. It is home to a variety of marine animals, corals, and plants and it is well documented that the sanctuary constitutes one of the world’s most important habitats for the endangered North Pacific humpback whale.

Waimea Valley comprises approximately 1875 acres of historic Hawaiian land and is located just south and southeast of the property.  Waimea Valley was acquired in June of 2006 and is currently protected by a conservation easement: forever protected as one of Hawaii’s most valuable cultural sites and botanical gardens.  Due to the significance of Pu’u O Mahuka in relation to Waimea Valley, the current owner of the valley has provided us with a Letter of Support for this project.

Pupukea-Paumalu. The property lies south, southwest of the Pupukea-Paumalu site.  Pupukea-Paumalu comprises approximately 1129 acres of Hawaiian land purchased by an investment consortium in June of 2007 and is now also permanently protected with a conservation easement.  Ownership of the Pupukea-Puamalu land is divided between the State of Hawaii and the City and County of Honolulu.  The North Shore Community Land Trust (NSCLT) is currently working with the State to establish a curatorship agreement and help oversee the uses of the land.  NSCLT is also extremely supportive of our efforts to protect the property, and has also provided a Letter of Support.

A Charitable Foundation Corp. There are three parcels of land approximating ninety-four acres adjacent the Property to the south and southeast.  These parcels are currently owned by A Charitable Foundation Corp. and are in the process of being preserved and subsequently donated to the State for public use.  This land will therefore soon be accessible to the public for trail hikes along the north ridgeline of Waimea Valley.  The subject property, if protected, will effectively serve as a buffer zone between the residential community of Pupukea and this land.  A representative of A Charitable Foundation Corp. has also provided us with a Letter of Support for the project.

(ii) Conservation Plan

We will providing more details here in a future blog.  For now, it is important to know that the land owner is committed to not only permanently protecting the property, but transforming it through the thoughtful implementation of a conservation plan.    His long term vision for the property is to reestablish a large portion of it to active agricultural use, servicing the community of Pupukea in addition to visitors to Hawaii.  He hopes to provide an interactive experience that will focus on educating the public to productive agricultural methods that include environmental learning stations and outdoor food tasting stations.  His vision also calls for: (i) increasing acreage to dedicated pasture and grazing lands, (ii) a forest restoration project, and (ii) expanding and enhancing existing equine activities.  We adamantly believe that these efforts will dramatically transform the property into a site that fosters growth of community interest and involvement in land conservation and sustainability.

(iii) Project Sponsorship

The Hawaiian Islands Land Trust (HILT) has reviewed this project in detail, and is excited about sponsoring it through the funding process to ensure its perpetual protection.  Furthermore, HILT will be responsible for the enforcement of the conservation easement on the property once recorded.  This effort will be supported by the establishment of a stewardship fund that will be funded by the land owner.  HILT will conduct annual site visits and ensure compliance with the conservation easement, as drafted and executed.  To learn more about HILT, please check out their web-site here.

(iv) Preliminary Valuation and Deal Structure

A preliminary range of value has been delivered by John Child & Company, a well known appraiser in Honolulu.  John Child & Company has been involved with numerous conservation easement projects throughout Hawaii and clearly understands that the success of these projects often hinges on the estimate of value.  The land owner understands the restrictions a conservation easement will place on the property, he has accepted the preliminary range of value, and perhaps most importantly, he is donating 25% of the conservation easement value to the project.  We hope to secure the remainder of the conservation easement funding through certain federal programs (50%) and the City and County's Clean Water Natural Lands fund (25%).

(v) Community Support

Given the significance of the project, and in consideration of preliminary meetings with the following, we have received and are in the process of receiving Letters of Support from:  (i) Hi’ipaka (owner and operator of Waimea Valley), (ii) the North Shore Community Land Trust, (iii) a Charitable Foundation Corp, (iv) State Parks Division of the State of Hawaii, (v) the Sunset Beach Community Association, (vi) the North Shore Community Association, and (vii) local government officials, community members and surrounding land owners.

We hope after reviewing this Blog you agree that this is an important piece of land to protect.  We would love to hear your thoughts about this project.  Please feel free to contact us with any questions or if you'd like to discuss this project in more detail.  We can be reached at (808)638-8333 or [email protected].  Mahalo nui loa for your support!

Introducing "Baby Huey"!

We're excited to welcome "Baby Huey" to Sunset Ranch!  As one of the most beautiful and friendly horses we have EVER seen, Baby Huey is officially our mascot and we're so excited to have him as part of our horse family.  He will slowly be integrated into our horsemanship programs (HEART:  Hawaii Equine Assisted Reflection & Therapy), and available for photo shoots, educational tours, events and retreats.  If you're interested in meeting Baby Huey, or scheduling a HEART session, photo shoot or tour at Sunset Ranch, give us a call at (808)638-8333, or e-mail us at [email protected].  Mahalo nui loa for your continued support of Sunset Ranch!


Third Annual "Benefit for the Country"

Please join us for our Third Annual "Benefit for the Country" supporting land conservation on Oahu's North Shore (North Shore Community Land Trust).  Table sponsorships are now available and individual tickets will be available on October 18, 2013.  This is the event of the year on Oahu's North Shore.  Don't miss it!  Mahalo nui loa for your continued support.

A Day on the Land

The Trust for Public Land (TPL) facilitates the protection of land across the United States.  The Hawaiian Islands office has worked to protect over 42,000 acres in Hawaii.  The President of Sunset Ranch Hawaii, Greg Pietsch, is the Chair of TPL's advisory board in Hawaii and as a company we our big supporters of TPLs land conservation efforts.  Please enjoy the Press Release below sharing one of TPL's community workdays at Moanalua Valley.

Press_Release_A_Day_on_the_Land_FINAL_Page_1 Press_Release_A_Day_on_the_Land_FINAL_Page_2

Improvements at Sunset Ranch

In an effort to continue to improve the visitor experience at Sunset Ranch, we're pleased to announce the completion of the following improvements to the property:

1.  Fence Install
We're very excited about our new white polyeurethane fence along the border of our lower pasture and at both ranch entrances.  We plan to complete the build out of two new ranch entrance gates by year-end 2013.  We also plan to add additional pasture fencing in future years, starting with the entire perimeter surrounding our future proposed environmental learning center and followed by the perimeter of the lower pasture.

2.  Sunset Stables:  Repair and Painting (Interior and Exterior)
In addition to the perimeter fencing, we've repaired and painted the exterior of Sunset Stables.  We also painted all of the interior walls in the 10,000 square foot arena, and added rustic chandeliers to the ceiling and shredded rubber to the flooring.  The shredded rubber provides a far superior footing for the horses, and contains the dirt beneath it.  These are big improvements that we know our horse family and event clients will greatly appreciate and enjoy.

3.  Main House Roof Repair and Painting
We have also repaired and coated the entire main house with a silicone based paint.  This has not only taken care of leaks we've had to address over the years, but it has cleaned up the look of the main house and has dramatically improved the feel of the entire ranch.

The Perfect Sunset Package

In an effort to continue to provide the best possible venue experience to our clients, Sunset Ranch is pleased to announce that we are now offering all-inclusive event packages:  The Perfect Sunset!  We take care of all event details so clients can focus on enjoying their special time at the ranch with family and friends.  Our package offering includes, but is not limited to:  (i) exclusive access to Sunset Ranch for the entire day, (ii) event coordination, (iii) all food and drink ($23 Menu), (iv) tent and materials design, set-up and take-down, and (v) entertainment.  Additional packages details can be found in our brochure below.  We can also work with you to arrange all transportation and overnight accommodation needs through our Preferred Vendors.  You can find other brochures, including our Property Use Agreement under Brochures on our Event tab.

INNOV8 Magazine

At Sunset Ranch Hawaii, we continue to be focused on our mission of helping advance land conservation and sustainability in Hawaii. Mahalo to INNOV8 Magazine (Go! Airlines) for sharing our story!

Benefit for the Country!

Individual tickets are now on sale for our annual fundraiser! Buy your tickets today at and join us in supporting land conservation on Oahu's North Shore. We expect 500 to 600 guests in Sunset Stables for a 'Town and Country' hoedown!  This is THE event of the year on the North Shore.  Don't miss it!  Mahalo nui loa for support.

Restoration of Charlie's Pond

In an effort to continue to provide the best possible venue to our clients, we're excited to announce that we have completed the renovation of Charlie's Pond.  This was a much bigger project than originally anticipated, but we're very pleased with the end result.  Here is a summary of our journey to restore one of our most popular features at Sunset Ranch:

Phase I: Empty Charlie's Pond and Prepare the Site for New Liner Installation
The challenge we faced with the old pond was that the liner had cracked beyond repair, and as a result it wasn't holding an acceptable level of water.  We therefore made the decision to commit to the expense of completely restoring the pond.

Once the pond was drained of water, we discovered it was full of almost 30 years of sediment.  What did this mean?  Sludge about five feet deep!  Consequently, we had to bring in industrial grade pumps to remove it all.  No easy task.  While this, along with other discoveries and unfortunate circumstances, presented us with what at the time seemed like insurmountable challenges; we eventually accomplished our objective of succesfully cleaning out the pond.

After the pond was emptied and the old liner removed, pond preparation included shaping of the pond contours and adding filler to the deeper section of the pond.  These efforts were made to create a more efficient and manageable pond.  The pond was then ready for the new and improved liner.  After careful installation, the liner seams were sealed and the perimeter of the pond was secured with cement and hand selected rock.  We brought in truck loads of rock to make certain that not only the entire pond was adequately sealed, but to insure an aesthetically pleasing design.

The pictures below show the important stages of the Phase I renovation at Charlie's Pond:

Phase II: Fill Charlie's Pond with Water and Re-Establish the Waterfall and Stream
While filling the pond with water took longer than we expected; it was well worth the wait.  It was just so satisfying to see a pond FULL of water!  That said, once the pond was complete and full of water, our focus turned to the waterfall and stream.  This element of the restoration, while not as challenging, did require quite a bit of work.  Specifically, this phase included creating a new waterfall and cementing the entire length of the stream with rock.  This has created a new and improved water feature that now runs along the entire south and southwest perimeter of the Charlie's Pond venue.

In summary, upon completion of the renovation of Charlie's Pond, we successfully created a beautiful new feature at Sunset Ranch.  At the same time, we have created a site with which to conduct a small amount of fish farming.  We're very excited about this.  Charlie's Pond now holds approximately forty golden tilapia!  Perhaps someday, with the proper monitoring and certification, we will include a few select Sunset Ranch tilapia in our event menus.

The pictures below show some pictures of the Phase II renovation of Charlie's Pond:

Second Annual "Benefit for the Country"

SAVE THE DATE!  Sunset Ranch is excited to announce that our annual fundraiser for the North Shore Community Land Trust (NSCLT) will be on Saturday, November 3 at 5:00 pm.  Town will be catering the event, and the entertainment will include some of Hawaii's very best.  The NSCLT will also be sharing current projects and an update on their ”Greenprint” intiative.  Please join us on this special evening and support one of the great organizations working hard to protect Oahu’s North Shore.



Charlie's Country Store

In an effort to continue to provide the best possible venue experience to our clients and all visitors, we're excited to announce that "Charlie's Country Store" at Sunset Ranch is now open!
(i) Sunset Ranch Memorabilia and Local North Shore Products
Charlie's Country Store currently offers the following Sunset Ranch memorabilia:  (i) apparrel (including: polo shirts, long sleeve t-shirts, short sleeve t-shirts, and hats), (ii) picture frames, (iii) Contigo coffee tumblers, and (iv) bumper stickers.  In addition, we're teaming up with select vendors to provide locally made cookies and jams for our clients and all visitors.  We'll also be working with certain North Shore artists to offer local artwork to visitors.
(ii) Staging Area for Site Visits and Event Management
"Charlie's Country Store" is centrally located, and in close proximity to, all event venues at Sunset Ranch, including: (i) Sunset Meadow, (ii) Sunset Vista, (iii) Sunset Stables, (iv) Charlie's Pond and (v) Fern's Garden.  The store will serve to not only allow us to provide the best possible customer service to our event clients, but to host site visits for leads and visitors who are interested in learning more about Sunset Ranch and our mission.

Pacific Party Rentals

In an effort to continue to provide the best possible product, service and value to our clients, Sunset Ranch is pleased to announce that we have entered into an exclusive agreement with Pacific Party Rentals ("PPR").  PPR will provide all tents and materials to our clients for all of their event needs.  Tents and materials include:  tents, tables, chairs, linens, china, silverware, glassware, lighting, flooring and any and all other materials needs.  If Pacific Party Rentals doesn't have it, they'll find it.  Why work exclusively with one tent and materials vendor?  Two specific reasons:
(i) Superior Product and Service

Pacific Party Rentals has the newest and best quality tents and materials on Oahu.  Additionally, and more importantly, they provide the best possible service to our clients.  The PPR team is well trained, timely and extremely professional.  They are also intimately familiar with Sunset Ranch, and provide the optimal set up for each and every one of our six event venues.
What about pricing?  Pacific Party Rentals' product offering is priced competitively.  In order to provide our clients with assurance of this, we welcome them to shop around and collect bids from other vendors.  If the pricing for a comparable product is better at another tent and materials vendor, we ask PPR to do what they can to beat it, or match it.
(ii) Property Maintenance

As most everyone would agree, our most valuable asset at Sunset Ranch is the aina itself.  We understand clearly that it is our aloha for the aina that will sustain us.  Proper care and maintenance of Sunset Ranch is truly our highest priority.  Given the number of events we now host, it is critical that we manage the site efficiently and with the utmost care.  Managing events with a single vendor that we have come to know well, and trust, enables us to accomplish our objective of maintaining the beauty of Sunset Ranch for all of our clients.

We are excited about working with Pacific Party Rentals for many years to come!

Although our specialty is party tents, Pacific Party Rentals has everything you need. We are your one-stop-shop for your entire wedding, party, and corporate event needs. We pride ourselves in our work and our products! Our entire inventory is brand new, well maintained, and boasts the latest in high-end party tents and products in Hawaii. No matter the size of the event, we carry a large inventory of rental supplies to cover it all. From the initial phone call to the conclusion of your event, you can expect our courteous team of professionals to go above and beyond, consistently providing you with the highest quality of service. We even offer free site inspections and a free CAD layout to help you visualize your future event.

For more information on Pacific Party Rentals and our exclusive agreement, please contact Sunset Ranch at (808)638-8333 or [email protected].  You can also contact PPR at (808)255-9043 or [email protected] Mahalo nui loa!

HEART at Sunset Ranch

In an effort to continue to build meaningful Horsemanship programs at Sunset Ranch, we're pleased to announce our partnership with Hawai’i Equine Assisted Reflection & Therapy LLC (HEART). HEART provides therapy programs for youth, adults, families, and other individuals and groups that incorporate horses for growth, learning and healing.  While the HEART program offering includes unforgettable interactive experiences with horses; the 'heart' of their offering involves experiences in psychotherapy and learning that culminate in lasting and meaningful change for each and every participant.

"HEART envisions helping people live happier and healthier lives by providing an alternative, effective, and innovative approach to healing"  -  Carina Cooper

The HEART treatment philosophy resonates with the EAGALA model. HEART believes that their clients hold the best solutions for themselves. In the EAGALA model of Equine Assisted Psychotherapy (EAP) and Equine Assisted Learning (EAL), each therapeutic session is facilitated by an Equine Specialist and a Mental Health Specialist. Working with the horses as a team, HEART provides the opportunities to interact with horses, and then process these interactions with the client focusing on real solutions that are applicable to each individual.

Please review our Sunset Ranch calendar for upcoming HEART demonstrations and programs.  Sunset Ranch is hosting an OPEN HOUSE for HEART on Saturday, May 5, 2012.  More details on this event can be found in the flier below.  Come out and join us, and learn what HEART is all about!  We are so pleased to be working with a company focused on doing so much good for the community of Hawaii.  Please contact us with any questions, or for more information at (808)638-8333 or [email protected].  You can also contact Carina Cooper of HEART directly at (808)561-4184, or at  Mahalo nui loa!

Island Transporter

In an effort to continue to provide the best possible value to our clients, Sunset Ranch is pleased to announce that we have added Island Transporter as a Preferred Vendor to assist clients with all transportation needs.  Island Transporter has agreed to provide all Sunset Ranch clients preferred rates on transportation.  Whether clients book an event at Sunset Ranch, are involved with our Horsemanship programs, or are simply interested in visiting our site to learn more about land conservation or our planned Environmental Learning Center, they will have access to discounted transportation rates from Island Transporter.
(i) Sunset Ranch:  Turtle Bay Resort Transport
If our clients book rooms at the Turtle Bay Resort, we can arrange transport to and from the hotel through Island Transporter.  Typically, Island Transporter can do two round trips between Sunset Ranch and Turtle Bay in an hour.  Mercedes vans are used, and can accommodate between fifteen to twenty passengers each, and are perfect for the drive to and from Pupukea.
(ii) Sunset Ranch:  Airport, Waikiki and Honolulu Transport
For clients that require transport from the airport, Waikiki or Honolulu, Island Transporter can arrange all transportation needs.  If Island Transporter cannot accommodate needs with their own fleet of vehicles, arrangements can be made through other affiliate relationships to assure that all clients are well taken care of.

Island Transporter is more than just a transportation company.  Whether you're in Hawaii for the first time, on your honeymoon or a student in your final year of college, Island Transporter is committed to providing you with a warm spirit of aloha while you're in our corner of paradise.  The Island Transporter fleet consists of vehicles designed for comfort.  Our team of "transporters" are selected for their driving  skills, their familiarity with our island culture and their orientation to  customer care.  When you travel with us  you'll get first class service to any destination on the island.  For more information, please feel free to contact us at (808)638-8333 or [email protected].  Mahalo nui loa!

Pu'u O Mahuka (Hill of Escape)

How familiar are you with culturally significant lands in Hawaii?  At Sunset Ranch, part of our mission of "helping advance land conservation and self-sustainability" involves improving our understanding of the aina (land).  The process of establishing a conservation easement on Sunset Ranch, which permanently protected the site, taught us not only about the surrounding area's historical significance, but the importance of protecting it.  Thanks to the North Shore Community Land Trust (NSCLT), we continue to learn more and more about the history of the aina that surrounds us.  Specifically, the NSCLT's "Greenprint" initiative helps identify the characteristics of North Shore lands, and prioritize protection efforts.  An area of particular interest to Sunset Ranch?  The land surrounding Pu'u O Mahuka (Hill of Escape): Oahu's largest heiau (important religous site or temple).

Pu'u O Mahuka sits atop the bluff just north of Waimea Bay, makai (towards the ocean, or west) of Sunset Ranch (photo circa 1930).  The heiau is undoubtedly one of the more culturally significant sites on Oahu's North Shore.  It played a critical role in the social, political and religious dynamic of the Hawaiian community living in Waimea Valley.  Thanks to information obtained from Hawaii State Parks, here are some additional details on Pu'u O Mahuka:

1.  The heiau was likely constructed by the Hawaiians in the 1600's, and covers approximately two acres.  The picture on the right clearly shows Pu'u O Mahuka's strategic location relative to Waimea Valley.  The picture (circa 1930) is a view of the heiau (left) looking mauka (towards the mountains, or east) towards Waimea Valley;

2.  We know that Waimea Valley was home to a large Hawaiian community during the 'pre-contact period', or before Captain Cook's arrival to the islands.  Given the heiau's location on the bluff, historians believe that Pu'u O Mahuka was often used by Hawaiians living in Waimea Valley to communicate with Hawaiians at a heiau in Wailua on Kauai.  Communication would have been via extremely large signal fires.  The picture below, taken in the 1970s, provides a great view overlooking the heiau facing makai.  Try to imagine what it may have looked like when the Hawaiians were using signal fires and communicating with residents of Kauai.

3.  Pu'u O Mahuka had three distinct wall enclosures ranging from three to six feet in height.  The heiau was most likely built by commoners, with construction overseen by an ali'i nui (high ranking chief) and his priests (kahuna).  Within the walls of the heiau existed wood and thatched structures, and the ground was paved with stone;

4.  New ruling chiefs very well may have modified the heiau.  In fact, it is believed that the mauka portion of Pu'u O Mahuka was likely built first, and was primarily used as the ceremonial section of the heaiu.  The makai enclosures are presumed to have been added later, perhaps in the 1700s.  These areas were likely used as the sacrificial areas of the heiau; and

5.  In the 1770s, a high ranking priest named Ka'opulupulu (under Oahu Chief Kahalana) oversaw Pu'u O Mahuka.  This was a time of war in Hawaii, and it is presumed that the heiau was often used as a sacrificial site.  After Kamehameha I conquered Oahu in 1795, his high priest Hewahewa conducted religious ceremonies at Pu'u O Mahuka.  It is believed that ceremonial use of the heiau continued until 1819.  Study of Cook's Voyages suggest that after Captain Cook was killed at Kealakekua Bay in 1779, the HMS Resolution landed in Waimea Bay to stock up on water.  Imagine what the view may have been like from Pu'u O Mahuka.

So the historical significance of Pu'u O Mahuka is very clear.  That said, what is the current state of the heiau and the lands surrounding it?  We have some great news to share.  While the State of Hawaii (State Parks) owns Pu'u O Mahuka and a very small buffer around it; there is only one private land owner of the more than 200 acres that surround the heiau.  Subsequent closing of the conservation easement at Sunset Ranch, we were contacted by the land owner to discuss the possibilities of protecting this 200+ acre site.  The entire parcel is currently undeveloped, prime agricultural lands that wraps around Pu'u O Mahuka and works its way mauka up into the community of Pupukea.

We're currently talking to the land owner about two primary objectives:  (i) increasing the size of the State owned buffer around Pu'u O Mahuka; and (ii) protecting the remaining 200 acres of agricultural lands with a conservaion easement.  In partnership with the local community, the North Shore Community Land Trust and the Hawaiian Islands Land Trust (HILT), we hope that this vision will soon become a reality.  The land is simply too important to not protect, and the current zoning provides the potential for at least a 77 lot subidivision.  With current ownership in the hands of a conservation minded land owner, now may possibly be the best time to assure this special site's perpetual protection.

Hopefully this blog has provided a better understanding of Pu'u O Mahuka, and why we're so excited about the possibility of protecting the land surrounding it.  Land that is just a short distance from Sunset Ranch.  We hope that our small success story of protecting our approximate thirty acre site can help facilitate the protection of this important land.  While it will be no easy task; we're committed to helping all parties involved any way we can.

If you haven't already seen Pu'u O Mahuka, please take the time to explore it.  And while there, please think about what you've learned from this blog.  The site truly has some of the most spectacular views of Oahu's North Shore.  Also, if you have more information on Pu'u O Mahuka, or would like to discuss it further, please contact us at (808)638-8333.  Please also feel free to e-mail us at [email protected].  We would love to hear from  you.  If you would like more information on the North Shore Community Land Trust's "Greenprinting" efforts, please click here, or contact Doug Cole at (808)497-0036.  Mahalo nui loa!

Land Preservation in Hawaii

A great summary of the symposium held in January.  These informational sessions are critical to spreading the word on land conservation in Hawaii, and educating the community on the programs and instruments available to assist with accomplishing our long term objectives of adequately balancing the preservation of land and development in Hawaii.

Symposium-LandPreservation_Page_1 Symposium-LandPreservation_Page_2

Guest Suites at Sunset Ranch

In the interest of sharing Sunset Ranch, now permanently protected from development, we do our very best to provide one of the most exclusive event venues in Hawaii. As discussed in our November 2011 blog, event clients are provided exclusive access to the property for the entire day of their event. In addition, we provide clients exclusive access to two guest suites in the main ranch house.  The guest suites can be used throughout the duration of the client's event (overnight accommodations are not provided).  Here is a brief description of the ranch house, and the guest suites that are included in the site fee:

Ranch House and Guest Suites

Nestled atop Waimea Valley on the North Shore of Oahu, Sunset Ranch is one of the largest private estates on the island. The approximate 30 acre property, also known as Pu’u O Kolea (Plover Hill), is one of the most private, secluded areas on Oahu, with spectacular views of the northwest side of the island. Sunset Ranch’s elegant beauty, pristine views and gentle breezes make this special property like no other.

The plantation-style ranch house, originally built in 1975 and renovated in 2008, includes a guest bedroom wing that is made available to all event clients. The guest suites are adjacent the event venues "Charlie's Pond", "Sunset Vista" and "Fern's Garden". They are also within close walking distance of "Sunset Meadow" and "Sunset Stables".

The guest suites are separate key entry and each provide a luxurious 350 square feet of living space that includes: private bathrooms, walk-in cedar closets, and spacious river rock showers. Amenities include: peruvian travertine flooring, luxury ranch furnishings and bedding, and flat screen televisions. Each guest suite opens up to breathtaking ocean, island and ranch views from a spacious veranda that surrounds the ranch house. We're excited to share these special suites with our event clients! For more information on our guest suites, please contact us at: [email protected], or call us at (808)638-8333 or toll free at (855)638-8333. Mahalo!

Event Venues at Sunset Ranch

In the interest of sharing Sunset Ranch, now permanently protected from development, we do our very best to provide one of the most exclusive event venues in Hawaii.  Specifically, event clients are provided exclusive access to the property for the entire day of their event.  We also have five event venues from which clients can chooseClients can use one venue, or all five venues, on the day of their event.  The site is exclusively theirs.  Further, how event clients decide to design and use Sunset Ranch is completely up to them.  They are limited only by their imagination.  Below please find brief descriptions of each of the five event venues available to our clients at Sunset Ranch:

Sunset Vista

Breathtaking ocean and island views within an expansive, manicured grassy area is what clients will discover at Sunset Vista.  The venue is level at the top and gently sloping as one walks westward towards our lower pasture.  The lower pasture comprises approximately twelve acres of prime grazing lands and is home to eight of our horses, providing a spectacular back drop to Sunset Vista.  The grade of the venue also provides a natural 'stadium seating' effect, allowing guests to easily view a ceremony or event located below them.  Sunset Vista also works well for receptions and other parties that include a tent in the upper section of the venue where the grade is more level.  Clients that use Sunset Vista also tend to use other venues at Sunset Ranch.  As an example, wedding clients will often choose to use Sunset Vista for their ceremony, followed by a reception in Charlie's Pond (south, and adjacent Sunset Vista) or Sunset Meadow (north).  While we've included a few photos of Sunset Vista below, please enjoy more photos of this great venue here.

Sunset Meadow

Gentle island breezes, spectacular ocean and mountain views, expansive open space, and our signature eucalyptus tree are what clients experience in Sunset Meadow.  This venue includes approximately five acres of manicured grasslands, where event design is limited only by one's imagination.  Sunset Meadow has been host to a wide variety of events over the years, including:  fundraisers, weddings, corporate retreats, horse parties, birthday parties, luaus and other local gatherinsgs.  The venue sits on the northeast end of the property and has some of the best views on site.  The venue is also adjacent another very large grassy area that is often used for parking when clients choose to use Sunset Meadow for a venue.  You can find pictures of Sunset Meadow below as well as  here.

Sunset Stables

Sunset Stables provides clients a rustic, yet elegant, indoor barn with approximately 10,000 square feet of floor space.  While the venue can accommodate very large events; it can also be partitioned to accommodate smaller events.  Sunset Stables is one of only two indoor riding arenas on Oahu, truly delivering an event venue like no other.  Prior events held in Sunset Stables have ranged from 40 guests to 500 guests.  The barn has one large sliding door on the north end that is often used for the main entrance to the venue.  Alternatively, clients can choose to have guests use the open aisle of stalls to enter the venue.  While we can locate a horse in a stall at the request of our clients; clients can also choose to use stalls for photo booths or other event attractions.  There are also three parking locations surrounding Sunset Stables, providing convenience for event guests.  Please click here for more pictures of Sunset Stables.

Charlie's Pond

Charlie's Pond provides an intimate and elegant setting between the plantation ranch house and large pond.  This outdoor venue offers panoramic ocean and island views of the North Shore of Oahu, and the most spectacular of sunsets.  Charlie's Pond also includes a tropical garden that sits on the south side of the venue and provides views overlooking Waimea Valley and out towards the Waianae mountain range.  The garden is home to giant eucalyptus trees, monsterra, ginger, hibiscus and other Hawaiian flora and fauna.  The mauka side of the garden also houses a small imu (underground oven) that can be used by event clients.  This garden area works very well for an event receiving area, cocktail party, ceremony, or any main event.  While Charlie's Pond typically caters to event sizes of 50 to 150; the venue can comfortably handle up to 300.  Charlie's Pond is a great venue with a variety of options for event design and set-up.  You can find more pictures of Charlie's Pond here.

Fern's Garden

A private, intimate garden with views looking out across Waimea Valley towards the southern point of the Waianae mountain range, and surrounded by giant eucalyptus, monsterra, other native Hawaiian plants is what clients are afforded in Fern's Garden.  This magestic venue is great for cocktail parties, ceremonies, rehearsal dinners, bridal and baby showers, dinner parties, a receiving area, or transition area between other venues at Sunset Ranch for larger events.  The garden includes fragrant Hawaiian flowers, a spacious area for set-ups and some of the property's most spectacular views. Additional pictures of Fern's Garden can be found here.







For more information on our event venues at Sunset Ranch, please contact us at (808)638-8333.  You can also reach us on our toll free line at (855)638-8333, or you can send us an e-mail at [email protected].  More pictures of these venues, as well as photographs of some recent events, can be found on our web-site under Photo Albums on the Events tab here.  For a LIVE view from Sunset Vista, please check out our RanchCam.  We are also in the process of developing a video site tour that will provide footage of each of the venues at Sunset Ranch.  Stay tuned!  Mahalo nui loa for your support!

The Trust for Public Land

The Trust for Public Land (TPL) is a national non-profit organization with a mission of 'protecting land for people'.  TPL's work started in Hawaii in 1979 on the Big Island, with the protection of approximately 279 acres of Volcano National Park.  To date, TPL has helped protect over 36,000 acres throughout Hawaii, including projects on every major island.  Teaming up with the North Shore Community Land Trust (NSCLT) in 2008, TPL  also played a critical role in the protection of Sunset Ranch.  The local TPL staff assisted us with all elements of the fundraising process, from application processing to site visits to presentations to meeting after meeting after meeting.  Their involvement was invaluable and we simply could not have completed the project without their assistance and support.  

Similar to the NSCLT, TPL has played, and continues to play, a critical role in the protection of land on Oahu's North Shore. A couple of notable TPL land conservation successess near Sunset Ranch include:  (i) Pupukea-Paumalu (~1129 acres north of Sunset Ranch), a property that was potentially subject to significant commercial and residential development; and (ii) Waimea Valley (~1875 acres south of Sunset Ranch), a culturally significant parcel also threatened by development.  Currently, TPL and the NSCLT are working together to protect over 400 acres near Turtle Bay, referred to as:   Turtle Bay Mauka Agricultural Lands

The aforementioned land conservation projects are just a few examples of TPL's efforts in Hawaii.  Thanks to TPL and other organizations like the NSCLT, all of this important land has been, or is in the process of being, permanently protected. 

The Trust for Public Land is an incredible organization comprised of exceptional individuals who have nothing but the best interests of Hawaii residents in mind.  If you're interested in land conservation in Hawaii, TPL is an organization you should know about.  Here is their stated mission:

The Trust for Public Land conserves land for people to enjoy as parks, gardens, and other natural places, ensuring livable communities for generations to come.

If you're interseted in meeting the local TPL team, come join us at Sunset Ranch for the NSCLT benefit on Saturday, November 5, 2011 at 5:00 pm.  You can buy tickets here.  For more information on TPL, contact their local Hawaii office at (808)524-8560.  We also recommend that you visit their web-site at TPL Hawaii.   The time for land conservation in Hawaii is now.  Get involved.  Mahalo!

Inaugural "Benefit for the Country"

Sunset Ranch is excited to announce that we'll be hosting the 2011 benefit for the North Shore Community Land Trust (NSCLT) on Saturday, November 5 at 5:00 pm.  This is going to be an awesome event with great food and some of Hawaii's very best musicians.  The NSCLT will also be sharing with guests recent land conservation successes, current projects and efforts to prioritize future projects through their "Greenprint" intiative.  Please join us on this special evening and support one of the great organizations working hard to protect Oahu's North Shore.  BUY YOUR TICKETS HERE!




Saturday, November 5, 2011, 5:00 PM


As a reminder, the  NSCLT played a critical role in the permanent protection of Sunset Ranch, Pupukea-Paumalu (~1129 acres north of Sunset Ranch) and Waimea Valley (~1875 acres south of Sunset Ranch).  NSCLT is an incredible organization comprised of exceptional individuals who have nothing but the very best interests of the North Shore community in mind.  For more information, contact Sunset Ranch at (808)638-8333 or NSCLT at (808)638-0338.  Mahalo nui loa!


The mission of the North Shore Community Land Trust (NSCLT) is to protect, steward, and enhance the natural landscapes, cultural heritage, and rural character of ahupua‘a from Kahuku Point to Ka‘ena.

Farming at Sunset Ranch

Those of you familiar with our mission at Sunset Ranch know that we've been working on an Environmental Learning Center ("ELC") now for quite some time.  We wish we could move faster, but permitting takes time and of course we want to make certain we do this right.  All that said, we do have some good news to share:  our use permits for our proposed farming efforts at Sunset Ranch have been approved.  We are now in the process of finalizing the design and build out of the facility.  Once our building permits are received, we will be well on our way.  The current design of the ELC includes:  (i) a welcome center, (ii) a Native Hawaiian Nursery (a separate section of the ELC, and discussed in a previous blog), and (iii) an aquaponics facility.  So as it relates to Farming at Sunset Ranch, aquaponics is where our primary focus will be.  A highly productive method of farming for any resident in Hawaii

The primary objectives for the aquaponics facility at Sunset Ranch are threefold: 

(i) Education 

We want to educate the local community and Hawaii's visitors on what aquaponics is, why it is a viable farming method, how it really works, and how best to use it to supplement existing food intake.  We will also go so far as to say that we hope, for some, aquaponics will become a primary food source.  As we've stated in the past, we believe Hawaii has a five to six day food supply in the event of any natural disaster or economic crisis.  The fact of the matter is, we need to be better prepared.  We simply rely too much on those ships arriving into Honolulu harbor each and every day.  This dialogue has been on-going for quite some time now.  We understand that.  But the truth is, for the most part, we continue to just talk about it and go on living as we always have.  Times are a changing.  We need to take more proactive steps towards addressing this problem, and making sure we're prepared to take care of ourselves in the event of a crisis.  It's about paving the road to self-sustainability.  At Sunset Ranch, we simply want to be a part of that road. 

(ii) Product 

While our primary focus is on education; we also plan to develop an aquaponics system that can be purchased and easily transported and assembled in an urban setting.  This is critical to our mission at Sunset Ranch.  The pictures you see on this blog are of a large facility.  Believe it or not, however, there are small backyard systems, and even balcony systems, that can provide you with a significant amount of food.  We want to create a system that you can fit in your car, you can assemble at home, and get busy making food.  In our opinion, knowledge is quickly lost if not put to regular use.  We want you to actively put to work what you learn at Sunset Ranch.  On a daily basis.  Better yet, we want it to be part of your daily routine.  Yes!  Brush your teeth, and then go check on the tilapia before you run off to work!  When it comes to taking care of ourselves and the community in which we live, there is nothing more important than getting actively engaged and beginning to contribute in ways that help make a difference.  Again, we're hopeful that our product offering will enable visitors to take what they learn at Sunset Ranch and put it into active use.

(iii) Excitement 

As many are aware, there are a lot of farmers doing aquaponics throughout Hawaii.  And many are VERY good at it.  In fact, many of them are responsible for introducing us to, and getting us excited about, this great farming method.  A farming method that has been around for quite some time.  At Sunset Ranch, we want to create real excitement around aquaponics.  We understand.  People can only get so excited about growing fish and vegetables, right?  Wrong.  We want to make it cool!  We want to make it the next hot trend not only for the farming community, but for every resident in Hawaii.  A bit ambitious, yes.  But possible.  Our hope is that our facility experience, combined with our product offering, will make this vision a reality.  Again, the ultimate goal is to help start creating that path towards self-sustainability for the residents of Hawaii.

So what do you know about aquaponics?  At Sunset Ranch, we truly believe it is the way to a sustainable future in Hawaii.  As we continue to work towards finalizing our Environmental Learning Center, please contact us to discuss any and all ideas and thoughts you may have to make this facility like no other.  We appreciate any and all feedback.   Mahalo nui loa for your continued support!

Horsemanship Merit Badge

Sunset Ranch has teamed up with the Boy Scouts of America's Aloha Council to offer Scouts the opportunity to obtain their Horsemanship Merit Badge.  Programs are offered to individuals and troops throughout the year  and during summer camps.

Shortly following their arrival at Sunset Ranch, Scouts go out to the lower pasture, catch their equine partners for the day and begin theexciting, hands-on learning process.  Each day Scouts practice the skills covered in the Horsemanship Merit Badge Handbook, including: grooming, saddling, riding, and over-all care.  Other topics covered in this exclusive program include equine health, anatomy, nutrition, breeds, and tack.

Daily rides focus on obtaining the mounted skills required for the Horsemanship Merit Badge.  Mounted skills learned include:  walking, trotting, turning, stopping, and backing.  One unique aspect to our program at Sunset Ranch is that Scouts are encouraged to try both English and Western style riding.

The Horsemanship Merit Badge at Sunset Ranch is arguably one of the more exciting, challenging, and rewarding merit badges that your Scout will obtain.  Here are some comments from recent Scout participants:

"I’m so grateful for your time and attention with the boys; Nic is just thrilled and asked if he could skip Boy Scout camp and just pitch his tent on your lawn by the barn!  He is very interested in community service at Sunset Ranch and taking riding lessons in the near future! "

"We ran past our time because we were having so much fun and learning a ton!"

"Sunset Ranch is right next to Camp Pupukea and the view there is beautiful. We all really enjoyed being at the ranch and working with the horses."

"(At Sunset Ranch), we (not only achieved) our Horsemanship Merit Badges, but had so much fun and learned a great deal of valuable information."

Please contact us at (808)638-8333 for more information regarding our Horsemanship Merit Badge offering, or any other riding programs at Sunset Ranch.  Mahalo nui loa!

Sunset Ranch Menus

Sunset Ranch is pleased to announce that we're now working with a well known local Chef to provide exceptional food at a very reasonable cost.  While clients are welcome to bring in the caterer of their choice for Events at Sunset Ranch; we offer these menus in the spirit of helping clients maximize the value of their event budgets.  From fundraising events to corporate and non-profit retreats, and Hawaiian luaus, weddings, birthday parties and other local gatherings, these menus are available for any occassion.

We have menus priced at $18 per head, $20 per head, $30 per head and $50 per head.  Below please find the details of our Signature Menu: Hawaiian Luau at $18 per head.  You can find the details of our other menus here.  We're confident that these menus will provide the best value on the island for our clients.  Please e-mail us at [email protected] or call us at (808)638-8333 for more information.  Mahalo nui loa!

Sunset Ranch Horse Parties

Sunset Ranch is very excited to announce that we're now officially hosting:  Sunset Ranch Horse Parties!  Guests are provided exclusive access to this private, thirty acre estate for an experience like no other in Hawaii.  Enjoy breathtaking ocean and island views while you spend special time with family, friends and members of our Sunset Ranch horse family!  As with all of our efforts at Sunset Ranch, we're offering these Horse Parties in the spirit of land conservation and self-sustainability in Hawaii.  Sunset Ranch Horse Parties are available to all Hawaii residents and visitors and include the following:

1.  Exclusive Access to Sunset Meadow:  Sunset Meadow is a five acre grassy area at Sunset Ranch that has spectacular ocean and island views of the entire North Shore of Oahu.  We provide you with exclusive access to this special venue for up to 50 guests.  You can find pictures of Sunset Meadow here;

2. Guided Horseback Rides:  Sunset Ranch will stage horseback rides adjacent Sunset Meadow for guided tours around the property.  We'll provide up to two horses for your family and friends to interact with, feed and ride at their leisure.  Meet our Sunset Ranch horse family here;

3. Food, Snacks and Refreshments:  While guests are welcome to bring their own food and beverages; Sunset Ranch offers a full lunch menu for your special Horse Party.  Everything from light snacks and water to a full Hawaiian luau menu.  Let us know what you'd like and we'll be sure to provide it;

4. Tables, Chairs and Restrooms:  Prior to your arrival at Sunset Ranch, our staff will set up tables and chairs for your Horse Party.  Set-up is near our signature eucalyptus tree in Sunset Meadow where guests can enjoy beautiful views and gentle breezes in the shade.  We also provide an air conditioned restroom trailer for your guests.

5. Games:  Sunset Ranch staff will also set-up various outdoor games in Sunset Meadow for your guests to enjoy.  Games include:  (i) horse shoes, (ii) croquet, (iii) bocce ball and more!

6. Land Conservation:  As we do with all of our events at Sunset Ranch, our staff will provide guests with some background on how this special property was perpetually protected, and the importance of private conservation easements to the future of land conservation in Hawaii.  Please check out our About tab and the link within to learn more about these important programs now. 

Sunset Ranch is offering Horse Parties any day of the week, and at various times.  Please call us for more detailed information and pricing at (808)638-8333.  You can also e-mail us inquiries here.  Finally, 'Like' us on Facebook for a chance to win a FREE Sunset Ranch Horse Party and Sunset Ranch memorabilia!  Mahalo for your interest and support!

Clean Water and Natural Lands Fund

The City and County of Honolulu established its own land conservation fund in 2007 subsequent voter approval of a charter amendment in 2006 (Revised Charter of Honolulu (ROH), Section 9-204(a)).  Specifically, Charter Question 3 was voted on and approved by Honolulu residents in November 2006.  The City Council  then created the Clean Water and Natural Lands Fund ("CWNLF") (Ordinance 07-18) and the Clean Water and Natural Lands Commission ("CWNLFC") (Reso. 07-355 CD1) in 2007.  Similar to the State's Legacy Land Conservation Fund ("LLCF"), Honolulu's now established CWNLF has two notable elements that enable the thoughtful and systematic funding of land conservation projects:

(i) An Expert Commission

A nine member commission, the CWNLFC was established in 2007 and comprises natural, cultural and agricultural resource experts.  The commissioners are volunteers appointed by the Honolulu City Council.  The CWNLFC reviews projects submitted for funding and advises the City Council on annual project selections.  The projects are then subject to the City's annual budget process, and submitted for final approval and funding by the City Council and the Mayor.

(ii)  o.5% of Property Taxes

Honolulu voter approval of Charter Question 3 established a dedicated funding source for land conservation projects.  Specifically, the charter amendment (Revised Charter of Honolulu (ROH), Section 9-204(a)) requires that 0.5% of all property taxes be set aside for land conservation projects in the City and County of Honolulu.   Further, the charter amendment explicitly states that funds be used to "acquire real estate or any interest therein for land conservation within the City and County of Honolulu for the following purposes: (i) protection of watershed lands to preserve water quality and water supply, (ii) preservation of forests, beaches, coastal areas and agricultural lands, (iii) public outdoor recreation and education, including access to beaches and mountains, (iv) preservation of historic or culturally important land areas and sites, (v) protection of significant habitats or ecosystems, including buffer zones, (vi) conservation of land in order to reduce erosion, floods, landslides, and runoff, and (vii) acquisition of public access to public land and open space".

Sunset Ranch was blessed to have been recommended and approved for funding by the CWNLF in 2009.  As stated in the LLCF blog, the project was also fortunate to recieve state and federal funding.  Federal funding came from the Natural Resource Conservation Service ("NRCS"), a division of the United States Department of Agricultural ("USDA"), and the State of Hawaii funding came from the Legacy Land Conservation Fund ("LLCF").  The USDA contributed 50% to the project; the LLCF, 25%; and the CWNLF, 25%.  The importance of financial leverage to land conservation projects cannot be overstated.  In the case of Sunset Ranch, the CWNLF committed 25% of what otherwise would've been required without the financial leverage provided by the federal and state programs.

This section was included as part of the LLCF blog, but it is worth repeating:  Private conservation easements reduce land conservation project costs to state and local agencies even further.  How?  With a private conservation easement, the agency is no longer buying a fee simple interest in the fair market value of the land.  Instead, the agency is purchasing a conservation easement that legally enforces the landowner to never subdivide.  Said differenlty, the development rights of the property are stripped away in exchange for payment.  Generally speaking, the value of a conservation easement (development rights) is typically between 40% to 50% of the value of a fee simple interest in the developable land.  The obvious result here is that the agency is able to accomplish the objective of land conservation at a fraction of the price.   Further, the responsiblilties of ongoing maintenance, management and liability remain with the land owner, and the property remains a revenue source to the county as the landowner is still required to pay property taxes.

Factoring the benefits of financial leverage together with the structure of a private conservation easement, the CWNLF committed approximately 10% of what it otherwise would've had to commit to protect Sunset Ranch.  This calculation does not consider the ongoing costs required to manage and maintain the property.  This is why it is so important for Hawaii residents to be aware of these programs.  Especially during these times when our state and county governments have limited financial resources.

Sunset Ranch remains focused on its mission of helping advance land conservation in Hawaii through: (i) events, (ii) farming, (iii) a nursery, and (iv) horsemanship.  Among other things, we believe these efforts will allow us to establish Sunset Ranch as a platform to effectively educate  landowners, the local community and visitors on the importance of federal, state and county land conservation programs.  Please contact us with any questions regarding the Clean Water and Natural Lands Fund.  You can also learn more about the application and award selection process for the CWNLF here.

CWNLF Project Awards:

The Honolulu City Council has approved funding for the following land conservation projects through the Clean Water and Natural Lands Fund:  (i) Kukaniloko, (ii) Sunset Ranch, (iii) Honouliuli Preserve, (iv) Kunia Agricultural Research Station, and (v) the Fong Plantation.  It is our understanding that, to date, Sunset Ranch remains the first and only project to have received funding from the CWNLF.

Legacy Land Conservation Fund

As Hawaii residents are well aware, many of the State's natural, cultural and agricultural resources are lost when certain lands are sold and developed.  A "Land Conservation Fund" was established by the State of Hawaii in 1973 for the purpose of funding the protection of such lands.  Unfortunately, the fund sat dormant until 2005 when the Hawaii State Legislature passed the Legacy Lands Act, and Governor Linda Lingle signed it into law.  The Legacy Land Act legislation had two notable elements that enabled the State to  thoughtfully and systematically fund land conservation projects in Hawaii:     

(i) An Expert Commission

The Legacy Land Act created a nine-member commission, the Legacy Land Conservation Commission ("LLCC"), composed of natural, cultural and agricultural resource experts representing each county in the State of Hawaii.  The LLCC reviews every project submitted for funding and advises the State's Board of Land and Natural Resources on annual project selections.  The projects are then subject to additional levels of review before they finally make their way to the Governor for the final decision on project funding.

(ii)  10% of Conveyance Taxes

Perhaps most importantly, the Legacy Land Act created a dedicated funding source for the newly named Legacy Land Conservation Fund ("LLCF") by allocating 10% of all State conveyance taxes (taxes imposed on the transfer of all commercial and residential real estate) to land conservation projects in Hawaii.  The law explicitly states that the LLCF be used "for the acquisition of interests of rights in land having value as a resource to the State for the preservation of agricultural lands, among other conservation purposes".  Funds can be used to acquire land at fair market value, or for conservation easements, including but not limited to projects with the following characteristics: (i) watershed protection, (ii) parks, (iii) coastal areas, (iv) habitat protection, (v) agricultural sites, (vi) culturally significant sites, and (vii) open space.  The LLCF awards grants to counties, local organizations and other agencies.  Grant recipients are required to provide matching funds of at least 25% of total project costs.

Sunset Ranch was blessed to have been recommended and approved for funding by the LLCF in 2009.  The project was also fortunate to recieve federal and county funding.  Federal funding came from the Natural Resource Conservation Service ("NRCS"), a division of the United States Department of Agricultural ("USDA"); City and County of Honolulu funding came from the Clean Water and Natural Lands Fund ("CWNLF")(we will be blogging about the CWNLF in the near future).  The USDA contributed 50% to the project; the LLCF, 25%; and the CWNLF, 25%.  The importance of financial leverage to land conservation projects cannot be overstated.  In the case of Sunset Ranch, the LLCF committed 25% of what otherwise would've been required without the financial leverage provided by the federal and county programs.

Private conservation easements reduce land conservation project costs to state and local agencies even further.  How?  With a private conservation easement, the agency is no longer buying a fee simple interest in the fair market value of the land.  Instead, the agency is purchasing a conservation easement that legally enforces the landowner to never subdivide.  Said differenlty, the development rights of the property are stripped away in exchange for payment.  Generally speaking, the value of a conservation easement (development rights) is typically between 40% to 50% of the value of a fee simple interest in the land.  The obvious result here is that the agency is able to accomplish the objective of land conservation at a fraction of the price.   Further, the responsiblilties of ongoing maintenance, management and liability remain with the land owner, and the property remains a revenue source to the county as the landowner is still required to pay property taxes. 

Factoring the benefits of financial leverage together with the structure of a private conservation easement, the LLCF committed approximately 10% of what it otherwise would've had to commit to protect Sunset Ranch.  This calculation does not consider the ongoing costs required to manage and maintain the property.  This is why it is so important for Hawaii residents to be aware of these programs.  Especially during these times when our state and county governments have limited financial resources.

Sunset Ranch remains focused on its mission of helping advance land conservation in Hawaii through: (i) events, (ii) farming, (iii) a nursery, and (iv) horsemanship.  Among other things, we believe these efforts will allow us to establish Sunset Ranch as a platform to effectively educate  landowners, the local community and visitors on the importance of federal, state and county land conservation programs.  Please contact us with any questions regarding the Legacy Land Conservation Fund.  You can also learn more about the application and award selection process for the LLCF here

LLCF Project Awards: 2010 

In 2010, the Legacy Land Conservation Fund conveyed over $3 million for land conservation projects in Hawaii.  These funds were matched with approximately $9.5 million in federal, county and private funds, and used to acquire and protect approximately 752 acres of threatened or unique natural, cultural, recreational, and agricultural resources.  The following is a brief summary of the projects protected in 2010, as communicated by the LLCC:

1. County of Hawaii and the Trust for Public Land: $945,000 for the acquisition of approximately 10.61 acres on the Island of Hawaii, coastline lot within Paoo ahupuaa, North Kohala District, to protect over 27 cultural sites from development and maintain the natural landscape and scenic views of the Kohala coastline.

2. Department of Land and Natural Resources, Division of Forestry & Wildlife: $500,000 for the acquisition of a conservation easement over approximately 614 acres on the Island of Molokai to protect critical watershed and prevent erosion damage to near-shore coral reef ecosystems and historic Hawaiian fishponds.

3. Kauai Public Land Trust and the County of Kauai: $800,000 for the acquisition of approximately 0.74 acre on the Island of Kauai, on Hanalei Bay, to be held by the County of Kauai, to enhance and protect the heavily used Black Pot Beach Park area for Hawaii’s residents and visitors.

4. Kona Historical Society: $255,592 for the acquisition of approximately 2.11 acres on the Island of Hawaii, South Kona, to provide a scenic buffer for the historic H.N. Greenwell Store and additional space for preservation of the farming and ranching heritage of Kona.

5. The Trust for Public Land and Oahu Land Trust: $500,000 for the acquisition of a conservation easement over approximately 107.73 acres on the Island of Oahu, ahupua‘a of Kaalaea, in the Koolaupoko District, to be held by the Oahu Land Trust, to protect agricultural production and maintain a portion of the rural character of windward Oahu.

6. Malu Aina Center for Non-Violent Education and Action and the Hawaii Island Land Trust (HILT): $231,788 for the acquisition of approximately 11.14 acres on the Island of Hawaii, Puna District; with a conservation easement to be held by HILT, to maintain agricultural production on lands with kipuka deep soil and abundant rainfall.

7. HILT: $35,000 for the acquisition of conservation easements over approximately 6 acres on the Island of Hawaii, Puna District; to preserve an intact native ohia forest canopy that allows native birds, insects and plants to travel and propagate.

LLCF Project Awards:  2009

In 2009, the Legacy Land Conservation Fund conveyed over $3 million for land conservation projects in Hawaii.  The State funds leveraged approximately $6.6 million in matching federal funds and $1.5 million in private and county funds towards the protection of land.  The following is a brief summary of the projects funded in 2009 as communicated by the LLCC:

1. State of Hawaii: $982,956.50 for the acquisition of approximately 3,582 acres in Honouliuli Preserve, Waianae Mountain Range, Island of Oahu, for its natural habitat, watershed, and recreational values;

2. State of Hawaii: $450,000 for the acquisition of approximately 65.56 acres in Hamakua, Kailua, Island of Oahu, for its natural habitat, watershed, scenic, and open space values;

3. State of Hawaii: $7,000 for the acquisition of approximately 7 acres in North Kohala, Island of Hawaii, for its cultural, historic, and scenic values;

4. State of Hawaii: $1,250,000 for the acquisition of approximately 17.05 acres in Lapakahi, Kohala, Island of Hawaii, for its coastal, cultural, and natural values; and

5. Maui Coastal Land Trust: $609,425 for the acquisition of an agricultural conservation easement over approximately 27.44 acres, in Pupukea, North Shore, Island of Oahu, to be held by the North Shore Community Land Trust, for its agricultural and open space values.

Kaunala Loop Trail

Kaunala Loop Trail is a hidden gem in the mauka regions of Pupukea-Paumalu on the North Shore of Oahu.  If you enjoy a fun, challenging hike, Kaunala Loop Trail is for you.  The trail head starts near the very end of Pupukea Road, between Sunset Ranch and Camp Pupukea (Boy Scouts).  An interesting fact on Sunset Ranch?  Kaunala and other trails in this region are a big reason why the State of Hawaii and the City and County of Honolulu were so excited about protecting Sunset Ranch from development.  Why?  Sunset Ranch provides a buffer to this region, which includes over 30 miles of trails throughout Waimea Valley and Pupukea Paumalu. 

Kaunala Loop Trail is a trail for every outdoor adventurer.  It is about a five mile loop that has a little bit of everything, including:  panaramic views of the north and northwest side of Oahu, spectacular mountain and valley views, stream crossings, paper tree forests and various ridge climbs.  The one recommendation we have if you're going to set out on this adventure is to start your hike in the morning, or in the early afternoon, latest.  Why?  On occassion hikers start a bit late and they underestimate the time it takes to complete the loop.  As a result, night falls and sometimes they require assistance getting back!

One of our many goals at Sunset Ranch is to establish our Nursery as a staging area to work with Hi'ipaka (owner and operator of Waimea Valley) and the State of Hawaii to help maintain invasive species and reintroduce native Hawaiian species in these mauka regions of Oahu.  This includes areas in and around Kaunala Loop Trail.  We want to create a fun, educational experience for school children, local residents and all visitors to Sunset Ranch.  We hope to also develop a short film documentary that shares the history of the area, including the cultural significance of the region. 

We hope you get out and explore the Kaunala Loop Trail!  As you start your hike, you'll see Sunset Ranch on your right.  Where the property ends is where our Nursery will be built.  Eventually it will be a great place for visitors to stop in, get educated and continue on their adventure to Kaunala Loop Trail.  We can't wait!  If you want more information on Kaunala Loop Trail, you can find it here.  A hui hou!

Botanical Gardens at Sunset Ranch

Sunset Ranch has dedicated a large portion of the property to botanical gardens.  We have a wide variety of native and non-native flora and fauna all around the property.  Sunset Ranch is also continuing to work on plans for an interactive nursery on-site.  The nursery will be located on the southeast portion of the property.  The primary objectives of the nursery at Sunset Ranch are to:  (i) establish a satellite nursery for native Hawaiian flora and fauna in partnership with Hi'ipaka; (ii) educate the local community and other visitors on native versus non-native plants, and (iii) establish a staging area at Sunset Ranch to conduct local hikes into the mauka regions of the valley in an effort to maintain invasive species and to reintroduce native species, where appropriate and able.

(i) satellite nursery

Hi'ipaka is the owner and operator of Waimea Valley.  Waimea Valley  is an 1875 acre sacred Hawaiian preserve that is located just south of Sunset Ranch and home to over 5000 tropical and subtropical plants.  Sunset Ranch and Hi’ipaka see two primary reasons for a strategic partnership:  (i) a satellite nursery at Sunset Ranch provides a facility away from the threat of landslides in the valley, and (ii) the higher elevation at Sunset Ranch provides for a more productive nursery for certain native Hawaiian species.  Sunset Ranch is excited about this partnership, and committed to the benefits this site will bring to Waimea Valley and the community.

(ii) education

Sunset Ranch is excited about using the nursery as a tool to educate the community on native versus non-native plants, and the importance of land conservation and self-sustainability in Hawaii.  The design of the nursery will be interactive in nature and allow children, students, families and visitors to see native plants up close.  Visitors will also be able to learn about invasive species and the history of the surrounding area.

(iii) staging area

Sunset Ranch is also interested in establishing the nursery as a staging area to lead community efforts to maintain invasive species and reintroduce native species, where appropriate and able.  Our vision is for visitors to educate themselves on native versus non-native plants, and then take their newly acquired knowledge into the valley.  We also hope to work with schools and organizations such as the Boy Scouts to organize these efforts into meaningful and effective programs.

We truly believe that the Nursery at Sunset Ranch can be a meaningful tool to advance the causes of land conservation and self-sustainability on the North Shore of Oahu. If you’re interested in our Nursery efforts at Sunset Ranch, or you have any thoughts or feedback, please feel free to contact us through our Contact tab, or call us at (808) 638-8333.  Mahalo!

North Shore Community Land Trust

As many are now aware, the North Shore Community Land Trust (NSCLT) played a critical role in the protection of Sunset Ranch and now manages the stewardship fund that will insure its permanent protection.  That said, it is also important to recognize the significance of the NSCLT's broader role regarding land conservation on Oahu's North Shore.  For example, did you know that the NSCLT played a significant role in the permanent protection of Pupukea-Paumalu (~1129 acres north of Sunset Ranch)?  This was a parcel that was otherwise subject to significant commercial and residential development that would have negatively impacted the North Shore in so many different ways.  And how about Waimea Valley?  Did you know that the NSCLT was instrumental in the protection of Waimea Valley (~1875 acres south of Sunset Ranch)?  This culturally significant parcel was also threatened by development.  Thanks to the NSCLT and other local organizations, all of this important land on the North Shore has been permanently protected.  The bottom line?  NSCLT is an incredible organization comprised of exceptional individuals who have nothing but the very best interests of the North Shore community in mind.  If you're interested in land conservation on the North Shore of Oahu, the NSCLT is an organization that you need to know about.  Here is their stated mission:

The mission of the North Shore Community Land Trust (NSCLT) is to protect, steward, and enhance the natural landscapes, cultural heritage, and rural character of ahupua‘a from Kahuku Point to Ka‘ena.

So how can you learn more about land conservation in Hawaii? And how can you get involved?

1.  The NSCLT holds 'talk story' events to get the word out and explain not only their efforts, but various land conservation programs available to the community and to land owners.  We highly recommend that you get in touch with the NSCLT and inquire about their next ' talk story' event.  Not only will it be informative, it will get you excited about land conservation in Hawaii.

2.  The NSCLT is currently developing a thoughtful strategy to prioritize land conservation efforts on the North Shore through their "Greenprinting Project".  Given the amount of land that is currently for sale on the North Shore (through Dole, Continental Pacific and others), it is important to understand the significance of this project.  The NSCLT has a new fundraising campaign called "7 FOR 7" that will assist with raising money for this effort.  Check out the "7 FOR 7" video on our drop down menu on the Event page.

3.  For additional information, or if you want to get actively involved with land conservation on the North Shore of Oahu, contact Sunset Ranch at (808)638-8333 or NSCLT at (808)638-0338.  We also suggest you visit the NSCLT's web-site at to learn more.

So please get involved with the important cause that is land conservation in Hawaii.  While monetary donations to the NSCLT are great (you can now easily donate via Crowdrise here); we also encourage you to donate your time.  There are many ways to get involved, and the time to get involved is now.  Mahalo!

Closing Celebration / Blessing

Please join us on Sunday, November 21st from 2 pm to 6 pm to celebrate the perpetual protection of Sunset Ranch, and one of the first private conservation easements in Hawaii.  This event is an Open House!  There will be pupus, entertainment and tours around the property.  It will be a very special day.  We hope to see you there!

 I also wanted to share a few critical points of mention with regard to the benefits that come along with private conservation easements.

1.  The objective of land conservation is achieved at a fraction of the cost.  How so?  The purchasers of the conservation easement (or development rights) are not paying fair market value for the property because they are not taking ownership.  Instead, the purchasers are buying the development rights of the land.  The value of the development rights is determined by valuing the property WITH the development rights and WITHOUT the development rights.  The delta, or the difference between these two values, is what is determined as the value of the developments rights.  So when you understand the difference in values being considered (WITH developments versus WITHOUT development rights), you can quickly understand how these federally based conservation programs allow for state and local agencies to achieve their goals of land conservation at a fraction of the cost;

2.  Property maintenance and liability remains the responsibility of the land owner.  Since the purchasers involved with the transaction are buying the developments rights and not the property, all financial and legal responsibility remains with the land owner.  This is an especially critical point for agencies that cannot afford to carry the added financial burden that would otherwise come along with ownership.  Of course the absence of any liability exposure associated with the property is also a huge benefit to agencies that are committing funds to these projects; and

3.  The property remains a revenue source for the City & County.  Again, the land owner continues to hold title to the underlying land and therefore continues to be reponsible for property taxes assessed by the City & County.  Alternatively, under a public conservation easement, oftentimes the State or City & County takes ownership of the land and the property tax revenue source is completely lost.  This is a significant amount of revenue!  When you consider this pont along with the two previous points, the value of private conservation easements becomes quite clear.

Our mission at Sunset Ranch is to establish the property as a platform to help advance land conservation and self-sustainability in Hawaii.  In order to effectively do this, we need to start by helping educate the community on the programs that exist and are available to landowners.  With regard to land conservation, when you consider the amount of land that is currently for sale by Dole and others on the North Shore or Oahu, it is very clear that the time is now to help advance the cause.

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