DHHL, NPS consult community on Kalaupapa
Community members expressed a wide range of suggestions last week for how to manage the future of Kalaupapa National Historical Park (KNHP), but among the differences, some themes arose: Keep it sacred, keep it spiritual, and ensure native Hawaiians have access to the land.
The Department of Hawaiian Homelands (DHHL) met with community members and homestead beneficiaries at the Lanikeha Community Center last Wednesday and Kulana `Oiwi last Thursday, gathering feedback as KNHP moves forward with a General Management Plan (GMP) for the peninsula.
The National Park Service (NPS) currently leases Kalaupapa land from DHHL for $200,000 a year, which will increase to $230,000 a year in July. The 50-year lease expires in 2041.
“I appreciated the community coming out, and even though folks had different ideas on what the right future was, you could tell they all had a deep respect for the patients and the sacredness of the place and the stories,” said DHHL chairman Albert Nahale-a. “That’s the main issue here – how do we do that together?”
Plans for the Plan
Over the past two years, KNHP staff has collected public feedback to form its GMP. They have created four primary “alternatives,” or plans, ranging from maintaining similar conditions at Kalaupapa to substantially increasing public visitation.
The plans span both “near term” guidance – while the Department of Health (DOH) and Hansen’ s disease patients are still at Kalaupapa – and a “ long term” plan, after the DOH is no longer active there. Current management practices will generally continue while patients are still living at the settlement. All alternatives also address issues such as resource management, visitor use and access, interpretation and education, and commercial uses.
DHHL planner Kaleo Manuel said the final plan might include a mixture of the four alternatives, and perhaps some elements not yet outlined.
Several of Wednesday’s attendees were Hawaiian homestead beneficiaries who supported using Kalaupapa for homesteading. Other suggestions included forgoing homesteading and only building monuments to honor patients and thousands of unmarked graves. People also advocated using existing health care facilities and using the area to increase education about Kalaupapa’s history.
While some homestead supporters advocated working with NPS, resident Lori Buchanan advocated terminating DHHL’s lease with NPS. She also decried using the term “visitor” to define Hawaiians entering Kalaupapa – a sentiment that others echoed – and said natives deserve access to the land.
“This is your land,” she said to the audience. “Up until now, the people that we gave our management and stewardship responsibility to have done a very poor job. … Despite that list [of more than $30 million in NPS projects], they left us — the beneficiaries – out of what we wanted to see.”
Nahale-a said it would be unlikely for DHHL to terminate the lease, in which case DHHL would likely pay NPS for improvements made to Kalaupapa, according to Buchanan and Manuel. NPS reports it has spent more than $30 million since 1990, from restoring historic structures to installing 12 major infrastructure projects, like a new water utility system and constructing a Hale Malama for museum collections.
Several attendees stressed maintaining the spiritual aspect of Kalaupapa, with some brought to tears as they recalled the impact the land has made on their lives. Fern Hamai, whose parents, uncle and grandparents are buried in Kalaupapa, questioned what homesteaders would want to do with the land, and said she wants the land’s legacy to be preserved. Resident Walter Ritte called on the Office of Hawaiian Affairs and DHHL to create a joint task force on behalf of homesteaders.
“Nobody’s really been paying attention to this,” he said, adding that he doesn’t want native Hawaiians to lose their rights to the land. “There’s no place in the world like Kalaupapa.”
KNHP Superintendent Stephen Prokop said NPS wants community input regarding whether NPS would allow homestead settlement in Kalaupapa, how many settlements people feel is appropriate, and whether they would be residential, agricultural or both.
Public response to the primary alternatives is due July 16. As part of its beneficiary consultation process, DHHL will take comments from its beneficiaries until July 29, when they will develop a report on the meeting that will be presented to the Hawaiian Homes Commission and NPS.
Nahale-a said homesteading will likely be addressed once NPS presents a draft GMP and Environmental Impact Statement (EIS), due in 2012.
“Right now all the possibilities are on the table. Soon as someone picks a path, that’s when we’ll start [discussing homesteading],” he said.
To comment on the preliminary alternatives, visit http://parkplanning.nps.gov/kala, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or call 567-6802 ext. 1103. Letters may be sent to Kalaupapa National Historical Park, P.O. Box 2222, Kalaupapa, HI 96742.