About Fern Acres
Fern Acres is a subdivision located near Mountain View on the Big Island of Hawai’i. It has 2000 two acre lots, community maintained private paved roads, electricity and telephone services. In 2007 the population of Fern Aces was 875. The elevation is 1500 feet above sea level with a daily temperature between 65 and 85 FH. Total annual rainfall is approximately 160 inches distributed fairly evenly throughout the year.
Frequently Asked Question
I am coming from the mainland to see my property for the first time. Can you help me locate my property?
Yes, we will be happy to help you locate your property. Come to our office at Lehua St at pole #7 between the hours of 9am-3pm Monday through Friday. And I will either show you on a map how to find it or take you there myself.
I have some documents to have notarized. Can you help me find a notary public?
Yes, we have a State Authorized notary public here by appointment. There is no charge for members. Non-members pay $5 per document.
How do I get help from a Notary Public? And what does it cost?
Call the office and we will set up an appointment for you to come in. And meet the Notary Public here. This service is free to FACA members. It costs $500 for non-members!
Who is in charge of scheduling the use of the Community Center Activity Room and how do I reserve the room?
Call Shelly Sherman to agree upon a free date and time. It is for residents of Fern Acres only right now and there are no fees as of yet. At present it is being used for community activities only.
Do you have a fax machine in the office? If so are members allowed to use it? If so what is the procedure?
Yes, Yes, bring in what you want to fax. The service is free to Members. Non-members are charged $0.10 per page.
Do you know of anyone who has a D-9 tractor who I can call to clear a driveway or house site?
Please see the community bulletin board in the office or look online at our Yellow Pages . where we have a list of dozer operators. (We do not endorse anyone)
Are there internet and cable providers available in Fern Acres?
Yes. They (Time Warner, Dish Network, Direct TV or AWS) also listed on the Yellow Pages. You will need to check each of them to see if their service is available for property. These services are constantly changing. We can’t keep up with all the changes. Again, we do not endorse any of these providers)
How much are mandatory road maintenance fees and when are they due?
Road maintenance fees are $130 per year due no later than March 31st.
How much are FACA membership dues and when do I have to pay?
Membership dues of $30 per year are voluntary. They are due by March 31st of each year.
Community chip sealing FA roads
A Brief History of Fern Acres
This history, written by Patti Pinto, was gleaned from FACA historical records. And from talking story with residents who lived the history. We would like to ensure the history is correct and complete. So if you want to make correction, addition or improvements please contact the webmaster. We will be happy to incorporate any input you have. Correction, addition includes facts, photos, anecdotes or anything else.
Individuals and families of great optimism, tireless energy and determination populate the history of Fern Acres. It has the good fortune to be situated in a truly beautiful part of upper Puna and to have attracted lot owners who had the determination and commitment to make Fern Acres the unique subdivision it is today.
Fern Acres was developed in 1958 at the beginning of the Big Island subdivision boom, by Crescent Acres, Ltd., and thus it was named Crescent Acres. “Developed” is a rather grand word for what they did. The reality, for this and other Puna subdivisions, is that they were surveyed and one-lane roads were bulldozed through the lava fields. Lots were sold sight unseen, predominantly to mainland buyers for around $700 – $1000 for a two-acre parcel. The original owners were 55% mainlanders, 35% from Hawaii, and 10% foreign.
In 1963 a group of about 100 land owners living in the Sacramento, California area got together and formed the Hawaiian Fern Acres Improvement Association, a California non-profit. The purpose of the association was to serve all those who were lot-owners. Their first goal was to replace the original wooden stakes surveyors had used to mark property lines. Many wooden markers had rotted away and some others had been burned in a fire that originated in Hawaiian Acres (1962) and burned about 1500 acres of our subdivision. The improvement association obtained an estimate of $5 per lot to survey and replace the markers, but they were unable to move forward as an insufficient number of landowners expressed interest.
During the early years Crescent Acres was responsible for maintaining its approximately 25 miles of private roads. In a 1966 newsletter the Board wrote to all landowners asking for a contribution of $5 per lot per year for a road maintenance trust fund. The State was not legally responsible for maintaining the private roads in Fern Acres nor had the Association established mandatory fees for this purpose. It appears that the maintenance performed by Crescent Acres at that time was limited to mowing the shoulders and some minor grading.
In 1967 the California non-profit association was disbanded and the “Hawaiian Fern Acres Association of Hawaii” was charted in the state of Hawaii.
Access to Fern Acres was via an unpaved and un-named county road that was no more than a cane haul road. There was no bridge at the stream bed at the entrance to Fern Acres and Hawaiian Acres. The next project of the Community Association was to induce the county to build a bridge over the stream. In 1968 this bridge was completed at a cost to the County of $25,000.
By January of 1970 there were just two houses in Fern Acres, the Conol house at Plumeria and Puhala and the Perrett house in the first block of Pikake. The Community Association applied to the federal government for non-profit 501(c)4 status. Working jointly with Hawaiian Acres, our association began negotiations with HELCO (Hawaii Electric Light Company) to run electrical power down the county access road to the entrance to the two subdivisions. Each association’s members contributed to the fund and the job was completed at a cost of $12,400, split equally between the two subdivisions.
1971 brought a new effort, again in association with the Hawaiian Acres Community Association, to have the county pave the access road. Up to this point the road through the cane fields was barely wide enough for a single car to pass. It was so narrow that cane would often brush the side of the cars leaving scratches. The Puna Sugar Company agreed to stop planting so close to the road and the county came through with a contract to pave the road. This new road was named South Kulani.
On May 31, 1971 Crescent Acres, Ltd. ceased its obligation to maintain roads in Fern Acres, and the full responsibility of road maintenance fell to the Improvement Association. 1971 saw the first donations to a Road Maintenance fund. By July of 1971 there were five houses in Fern Acres, and by July of 1972 we had a grand total of seven houses. On November 19, 1972, the association’s name was officially changed from the Hawaiian Fern Acres Improvement Association to Fern Acres Community Association for tax purposes.
It was at this time that Hawaii County fully recognized the problem of the sub-standard conditions in all of its new subdivisions. Hawaiian Paradise Park and other Puna subdivisions formed a coalition to petition the County for a share of tax revenues to improve roads. The County’s stance was that the subdivisions were privately owned and solely responsible for road maintenance. In 1962 a new land use law prohibited further creation of subdivisions without county roads, water service, electrical, but the existing subdivisions were left in an impossible situation: they were mandated to maintain roads and had no legally binding way to assess owners for the funds to do so.
The Hawaiin Fern Acres
The Hawaiian Fern Acres Improvement Association continued to maintain roads through donations solicited from members. Due to heavy rains many roads often became nearly impassable. The Association debated between devoting its energies to road improvement or in bringing electricity into the subdivision and appeared to focus on the electrical option. A contract was signed with HELCO to bring electricity down the length of Puhala. Land owners were asked to contribute $300 per lot towards the electrical project and the Electrical Trust Fund was established. Again, there was no legally binding way to assess for these funds, lot owners paid voluntarily. Over the years the contribution amount increased to over $500. One electrical pole could serve 4 lots and the cost per pole was divided among the lot owners, the individual cost increased year by year as the cost per pole increased. When people hooked up to the electrical service they would pay a fee to HELCO and that fee was repaid to our Electrical Trust and credited to the appropriate street.
Electrical service began in 1973 and has continued to grow ever since. After Puhala, electricity was brought to the first blocks of Pikake and Plumeria, and then beyond on those two streets as funds allowed. Lot owners on Lehua and Hibiscus lagged far behind on contributions. For many years there was the iniquity that homeowners further down the streets had contributed to the electrical fund but still had no electrical service because other owners had not contributed enough to make it possible to bring in additional poles.
In 1975 the Community Association had solicited enough funds to pave 1200 feet of Puhala at the entrance. Other roads were graded and filled as funds were available and according to the amount of use they had.
1976 saw the opening of the new airport in Hilo; there were 12 houses in Fern Acres two of which had phone service. Citizens band radio was quite popular to maintain communications In 1977 the Mountain View Library opened and became a vital resource for upper Puna residents.
In February of 1979 Fern Acres received over 60 inches of rain, a state of emergency was called. Floods literally took out most of Puhala and parts of Pikake, Hibiscus and Lehua. It was reported that rocks the size of a kitchen stove came thundering down the gulches that had once been roads. The Community Association applied for emergency aid through F.E.M.A. and received a $25,000 grant to restore the roads. This amount was only sufficient to restore Puhala, but work to improve the other roads was accomplished through donations to the Road fund.
1980 saw a fire started by a resident of Hibiscus burning trash that burned 60 acres on Hibiscus and Pikake between Rose and Puhala.
The Community Association, through thick and thin, continued to communicate with all the members through regular quarterly newsletters reporting on improvements to Fern Acres, local events, such as Kilauea’s eruptions, recipes, progress reports on home building, tips on how to plant, build, thrive, and the ever repeated requests for contributions to road maintenance and the Electrical Trust.
Fern Acres residents appeared to be nearly impervious to pessimism and continued to give 100% to the improvement of life here in the acres. Annual litter clean up and road crew work continues year in and year out. By 1982 there were more than 90 homes in Fern Acres and the subdivision was more than half electrified.
An arson fire started in Hawaiian Acres in 1983 burned 344 acres on Plumeria between Anthurium and Orchid. Fortunately no homes were destroyed.
In 1984 Hawaiian Paradise Park won a case in the Hawaii Supreme Court giving the subdivisions the right to charge mandatory road maintenance fees. The Fern Acres Community Association elected to go to court to become designated as the body to collect and disperse road funds for Fern Acres. This process actually took more than a year and residents were advised to suspend payments into the road fund until the decision was final. Prince Kuhio Plaza opened in March of 1985. Fern Acres residents reported being very glad to be able to shop at a real Sears and after years of using just a catalog store. It is during the 80s that Kilauea’s eruptions changed the face of the Puna district. Fern Acres residents reported being able to see the eruption of lava that went 1500 feet into the air from the higher elevations here. Balls of pumice “as big as duck eggs”, cinder and Pele’s Hair (threads of lava) fell to the ground in Fern Acres.
In November of 1985 the Community voted to move the month of its Annual Meeting to July to better accommodate lot owners who travelled from the mainland to attend.
The Fern Acres Community Association petition to be designated the legal entity to collect and disburse road maintenance funds slowly made its way through the local court and wass denied on December 12, 1985. This in spite of the previous legal ruling in favor of Hawaian Paradise Park’s community association for the same designation. FACA elected to take the case forward to the State Supreme Court and on February 19, 1987 was given a favorable ruling. The first mandatory road fee was $35 per lot.
This ruling changed the face of Fern Acres and enabled the community to move forward providing well maintained roads that are today among the best private roads of any Puna subdivision. The stated goals of the Mandatory Road Maintenance Assessment were as follows:
1. Open all roadways, make accessible
2. Level dangerous hills
3. Widen roadways from 10’ to 20’
The first two projects were to bulldoze 29 blind, dangerous or impassable hills and to widen 10 miles of roadway to 20 feet.
With the advent of mandatory fees a splinter group was formed to protest how the money was handled and the work performed. This group remained vocal for some years, but was unable to suggest any improvements in the way the funds were managed.
The Puna Community Council, an organization made up of members of many of the Puna subdivision Community Associations, became active in the mid eighties to petition the County and State for assistance with road maintenance and services to the subdivisions in Puna. Postal service, bus service, policing, school bus access, transfer stations and water spigots were some of the issues addressed. Fern Acres Community Association was active in this organization.
Fern Acres continued to electrify the subdivision. By May of 1987 there were electrical poles on Plumeria past Gardenia and on Pikake almost to Gardenia. Electrical on Lehua and Hibiscus lagged somewhat behind. By September of 1988 the road committee had removed 70 dangerous hills throughout Fern Acres and was accepting bids on a chip seal coat for Puhala.
In October 1987 the Fern Acres Community Association acquired a lot on Lehua (the site of our current office) in a delinquent tax sale, but it was not until January 1989 that the purchase was finalized. The Community Association applied for a zoning variance for the Community Center and office and began to solicit donations to build its community center.
In June of 1988 the County of Hawaii passed a law allowing police enforcement of traffic laws on roads in private subdivisions which were in public use. This did not mean that the police would routinely patrol these roads, only that if they happened to be there, they could enforce existing traffic regulations.
In 1990 the State of Hawaii passed a law stating that all new building must have septic system rather than cess pools. This immediately aroused great controversy and it became clear that the legislation was aimed at sea level building that was polluting ground water. Over the next couple of years the regulations were refined and changed, allowing most residential building to continue to use cess pools in upper Puna.
The Fern Acres Community Association Office building was completed and opened on April 1, 1991. It was originally less than half of its current size. It was quite a relief to get all of the business papers and activities into the office and to have a place where people could come to conduct business and find out about Fern Acres. Up until this point all of the Association’s work had been conducted out of private homes.
It was at this time the Association passed an amendment to the By-Laws allowing the association to place liens on properties for non-payment of Mandatory Road Maintenance Assessments (M.R.M.A., affectionately referred to as “Mister Ma”).
By May of 1991 the first coat of chip seal was completed on Puhala. The Community Association petitioned the county to run water down S. Kulani and to install a fire hydrant and water spigot at the entrance to the two subdivisions. The county water department and Civil Defense both declined, stating that there were no funds for such a project. FACA continued to press this petition for several years without success.
By 1992 there were approximately 300 homes in Fern Acres. The Road Maintenance Committee reported that the chip seal of Puhala had proven very effective and began the work of chip sealing the four main roads. The initial work was very demanding as the road beds had to be carefully graded, water run-off channels created at the sides and a perfectly flat gravel bed provided before the oil and chips could be applied. An additional advantage to the paved road surfaces was that they no longer required grading and gravel four or five times per year.
1994 also saw the completion of electrical on Pikake and poles extended into the last blocks of Lehua and Hibiscus.
The Road Committee decided that they would learn the art of chip seal and provide the labor from the Community, greatly reducing the cost. A chip spreader and truck were acquired and the paving continued to spread into Fern Acres with the donated labor and support of many residents. Chip seal is not as thick as asphalt and improves with each coat. A second coat was applied to Puhala before work began on the other roads.
The Community Association began work to form a Volunteer Fire Department in May of 1994 and in the spring of 1995 the first fundraiser to raise funds for a Fire House was held. A letter of intent was submitted to County of Hawaii to form a Volunteer Fire Department. The County Fire Department had already created a program of training for Volunteer Fire Fighters and a program to provide older fire equipment and trucks to the established fire companies. Our first six volunteer fire fighters received training from the county under the auspices of the Hawaiian Acres Volunteer Fire Department.
January 1996 saw the completion of the Meeting Room at the Community Center. The County approved expansion of activities on the Community Association lot to include a Volunteer Fire Department, the extension of office hours, and a Park. The idea of a Fern Acres park had long been a dream of the Community Association. FACA also petitioned the Postal Service to have cluster boxes installed in Fern Acres. The USPS approved four sites for mail boxes.
In 1998 the Fern Acres Volunteer Fire Department received the Forestry Service fire truck “5 Delta”. Electrical service was extended on Hibiscus to pole 114 and on Lehua to pole 119.