Kalaupapa Looks to the Future

National Parks begins new 20-year plan for Kalawao County.

By Catherine Cluett

Landfill Closing
Kalaupapa may be the smallest county in the United States, but they are at the forefront of waste management. The Parks Department confirmed at the Kalaupapa town meeting last week that the peninsula landfill will be closing by the end of this year. The closure will go hand in hand with the implementation of a comprehensive recycling and composting project, which will begin operation before Christmas.

Currently, the project is ahead of schedule, according to a representative of the Parks Service. All that is needed for the project to become operational is the equipment, which will be arriving shortly. Positions for the new facility will be announced in mid-November.

Gas Rationing

Gas is a hot commodity these days, but in Kalaupapa, it’s not because of soaring costs. One of the gas tankers didn’t make it to the peninsula this year, and gas rationing has been implemented to ensure that the fuel lasts until the barge makes its next trip. The tanker contained 8,000 gallons of gas, which translates to a six to seven week supply for Kalaupapa.

A ration of five gallons per week per vehicle for the rest of the year was announced, which Park staff explains should not impose undue hardship for residents of the 1.5 mile-long peninsula.

Pali Trail Maintenance
Hiking the pali trail to Kalaupapa is a challenge, but performing maintenance on the narrow trail zigzagging along the cliff down to the settlement can be a nightmare. The Hawaii Volcano National Park trail crew will face it head-on, performing improvements on the pali trail over the next two months. They will replace the bridge on switchback number two and extend its length for better footing, says National Park Superintendent Stephen Prokop.

“The trail crew will also take care of erosion problems,” he says. In addition, they will remove exotic and invasive vegetation along the trial such as Christmas Berry.

The pali trail will be closed for six or seven hours on Sundays during the maintenance period.

General Management Plan

Even though to many people, National Parks seem to change little over the years, they still require evaluation and planning for the future. That is what Kalaupapa will be undergoing in a process that will take a few years to complete. A General Management Plan is required of all National Parks every twenty years to re-examine the park’s vision and create a plan to carry it forward through the next 20 years. The process for Kalaupapa has already begun. The “internal scoping,” the first phase of the re-evaluation process for parks, started last week, says Prokop.

The first phase includes the identification of issues and concerns of a small, central group of people, and in Kalaupapa’s case, includes selected patients, Parks staff, and Department of Health employees.

The next step in the Management Plan process is 12 public meetings, two of which will be held in Kalaupapa, two on topside Molokai, and the rest around the state of Hawaii. After a team of planners gather to compile all the ideas from the public meetings, more public meetings will be held to find alternative approaches to the initial plan to incorporate as many possibilities for the future as possible into the final plan.

One of the finishing steps involves drawing up a draft of the General Management Plan, which will again be discussed by the public before the Plan is finalized.

Church Improvements

“When tourists and officials come (after the Father Damien canonization this spring), we want something we can be proud of,” says Richard Miller of the Parks Department. He is overseeing renovations and improvements to the Saint Philomena Church in the coming months in preparation for the influx of visitors to the peninsula this spring. The tumbled stone walls will be rebuilt, the peeling paint of the church ceiling and walls will be cleaned up, and damaged windows and frames will be replaced. In addition, structural repairs will be made.

“It’s a big task,” says Miller, adding that all work is being completed “in-house” by crews already working in Kalaupapa instead of bringing in new workers. “We’ve really stepped up the effort,” Miller says.

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