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, and electricity and telephone services. Per the 2019 census, the population of Fern Acres is 1,605. The elevation is 1500 feet above sea level with a daily temperature between 65 and 85°F. Total annual rainfall is approximately 160 inches, distributed fairly evenly throughout the year.
The FACA Board is responsible for managing the association’s business and affairs. It is tasked with selecting its officers, making rules and regulations, establishing dues, and hiring employees. In addition, it is empowered to borrow money and incur debts in the name of and for the purposes of the association.
It is required to establish and maintain an executive committee, a policy committee, a nominating committee, and a road committee. It may also establish, from time to time, an audit and other committees as needed. All board members must be members of the association in good standing, having paid their dues. All board members are elected for a period of three years. Three board members are elected each year at the Annual Meeting. Board members do not receive compensation, fees, or salaries for their services as directors or officers.
Meetings of Board of Directors
Meetings are held on the third Saturday of each month at 9:00 a.m. at the Fern Acres Community Center, located at Pole #7 on Lehua Street. These meetings are open to the public. Attendance by FACA members is encouraged.
The President’s Forum
Welcome, all! We hope you enjoy our website and find it informative. If you have any questions, send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org or call us at (808) 968-6006.
The firehouse construction is almost complete! All we need to pass final inspection is the paved driveway and an access ramp for the disabled. Thanks to all those who donated their time, effort, and money to this project….Signed Larry Roy, President
Complete paving of all streets
Establish a park on land to be acquired by FACA in the future
Short-Term Plans / To Do
“Community Clean-Up Day”
Road work such as cold patching and grading has taken place. Chip sealing this year is scheduled for the last block of Plumeria Street.
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 10:00 a.m. –2:00 p.m., Monday through Thursday. With Covid-19 restrictions and distant-learning currently taking place, scheduling an appointment is highly recommended.
Do you know of anyone who has a D-9 tractor who I can call to clear a driveway or house site?
The office may be able to recommend a few suggestions they find online or thru the yellow pages. (We do not endorse anyone.)
Are there internet and cable providers available in Fern Acres?
Yes. They (Hawaiian Telcom, Spectrum, Dish Network, Direct TV, or AWS) are also listed in the yellow pages and online. You will need to check each of them to see if their service is available for the 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?
According to the Bylaws, Mandatory Road Maintenance fees are due on January 1st of each year, but are not considered delinquent unless the payment has not been received by March 31st.
How much are FACA membership dues and when do I have to pay?
The membership dues of $35 per year are voluntary.
written by Patti Pinto
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 landowners 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 1966, the board wrote a newsletter 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 unnamed 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 of 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, and water and electrical services, 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 Hawaiian 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. Landowners 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 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, and 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 continued 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 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 traveled 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 was denied on December 12, 1985. This was in spite of the previous legal ruling in favor of Hawaiian 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 how the work was 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-80s 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 buildings must have septic systems rather than cesspools. This immediately aroused great controversy and it became clear that the legislation was aimed at sea level building that was polluting groundwater. Over the next couple of years, the regulations were refined and changed, allowing most residential buildings to continue to use cesspools 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 the 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 roadbeds 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 sealing 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 firehouse was held. A letter of intent was submitted to the County of Hawaii to form a volunteer fire department.
The County Fire Department had already created a program of training for volunteer firefighters and a program to provide older fire equipment and trucks to the established fire companies. Our first six volunteer firefighters 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 the 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 mailboxes.
In 1998, the Fern Acres Volunteer Fire Department received the Forestry Service fire truck “5 Delta”. Electrical services were extended on Hibiscus to pole 114 and on Lehua to pole 119.