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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Molokai Ranch timeline

 •  Molokai Ranch closure leaves bleak prospects

Advertiser Staff

Hawaii news photo - The Honolulu Advertiser

Pineapple came to Moloka'i in the 1920s, and Maunaloa became a plantation village.

Advertiser library photo

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Hawaii news photo - The Honolulu Advertiser

Walter Ritte Jr.

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Hawaii news photo - The Honolulu Advertiser

Words carved in a bench reflect the position of many on Moloka'i about tourism on the island.

Advertiser library photo

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1863: High Chief Kapuaiwa gained title to the land that is now Molokai Ranch when he became King Kamehameha V in 1863. Princess Ruth Ke'elikolani inherited the land on Moloka'i from King Kamehameha V upon his death, and when she died in 1883, the property passed on to Princess Bernice Pauahi Bishop.

1898: A group of Honolulu businessmen purchased 70,000 acres from the trustees of Pauahi's estate and leased another 30,000 from the Hawaiian government. Molokai Ranch Ltd. started its venture with sugar cane production.

1908: One of the partners, Charles M. Cooke, bought out the other members and under his son, George P. Cooke, Molokai Ranch progressed through cattle grazing, sweet potato and wheat crops.

1920s: Pineapple came to the island, and Maunaloa was developed as a plantation village to house the immigrant pineapple workers.

1986 to 1988: The last of the pineapple companies shut down and the Cooke family sold their interest to Brierley Investments.

October 1996: Molokai Ranch planned to spend $5 million to revitalize Maunaloa Village with a hotel, restaurant and triplex movie theater approved by the County Council. The move is part of Brierley's plan to convert the ranch from a cattle operation to eco-tourism. Some residents questioned whether the ranch will take too much water for the project on the dry west side of the island and whether a new hotel is needed when other hotels on Moloka'i struggle with low occupancy.

October 1996: State orders Molokai Ranch to open a public access to Hale O Lono Harbor on the southwest corner of Moloka'i.

December 1998: A Maui jury rules Hawaiian rights advocate Walter Ritte Jr. is not guilty of destroying a Molokai Ranch water line. The jury was split on a second charge that Ritte helped burn down a ranch beach house as part of a protest of the ranch's efforts to develop its lands.

May 2000: Two Moloka'i residents sue Molokai Ranch and the Maui County Planning Department, saying that an environmental impact statement should be done on ranch development plans to build an 11-acre residential project at Maunaloa and a golf course on West Moloka'i.

December 2000: Walter Ritte Jr. is sentenced to a year of probation and 500 hours of community service after pleading guilty to a misdemeanor charge related to a fire that destroyed a Molokai Ranch cabin under renovation.

December 2000: Brierley Investments Ltd., the Singapore-based owner of Molokai Ranch, said the company is planning to sell some of the ranch's assets.

December 2001: After several failed sale efforts, the owner of the closed Kaluakoi Resort struck a deal to sell the 4,000-acre Moloka'i property to nearby landowner Molokai Ranch Ltd.

December 2001: Molokai Ranch Ltd. and Starwood Hotels & Resorts, which owns the Sheraton brand, have agreed to a management and marketing deal for the ranch's 22-unit lodge and 40-unit Kaupoa Beach Village canvas bungalow camp.

January 2004: Hawai'i Supreme Court reverses the approval given in December 1998 by the state to Molokai Ranch to develop a new water source on ranch land above Kaunakakai and to pipe up to 1.25 million gallons of water per day to ranch land.

April 2004: Starwood Hotels ends its management contract of Molokai Lodge & Beach Village under its Sheraton brand.

Late 2004: Molokai Ranch CEO Peter Nicholas proposes a plan in which 85 percent of the ranch's 64,000 acres would be dedicated to conservation, open space and agriculture. In exchange the ranch would develop 200 luxury home sites at La'au Point on the island's southwest coast. The home sales would underwrite a $35 million rehab of the aging Kaluakoi Resort, including the 144-room hotel that closed in 2000. The plan is met with immediate opposition from those who want La'au Point preserved. Nicholas said the plan must go forward if Molokai Ranch is to continue operations.

November 2007: Molokai Ranch withdraws its environmental impact statement for La'au Point as the state Land Use Commission was about to vote on a motion to reject the EIS.

March 24, 2008: Molokai Ranch said it will close all operations and lay off its roughly 120 employees at the end of March because of continued opposition to its La'au Point plan.

Source: Molokai Ranch, Advertiser research