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Kalaupapa Post Office to Remain Open

The tiny Kalaupapa Post Office, after being earmarked for possible closure by the U.S. Postal Service (USPS), will now remain open. The one-woman office, described as a lifeline for the fewer than 100 residents of the remote settlement, was removed from the list of thousands of offices nationwide being considered for closure because of its necessity to the community, according to USPS spokesperson Duke Gonzales.

“We removed Kalaupapa from consideration [for closure] because it was clear that the Postal Service plays a unique role as a necessary lifeline between the isolated Kalaupapa community and the outside world,” Gonzales said.

With no cell phone service and limited Internet access in the settlement, residents rely on the mail to complete bank transactions, receive medications and do business, according to Department of Health Kalaupapa Administrator Mark Miller.

“[Possible closure] was in the back of everyone’s mind,” Miller said.

Since a list was released last year of four post offices in Hawaii being considered for closure, including Kalaupapa, the settlement’s residents have been writing letters of support and offering convincing testimony to USPS officials who visited the peninsula. Politicians became involved in lobbying for the tiny office, including Sen. Daniel Akaka and Congresswoman Mazie Hirono, who released a joint statement last Friday.

“I thank the Postal Service for removing the post office at Kalaupapa from the list of potential closures,” wrote Sen. Akaka. “During my last meeting with Kalaupapa residents, they expressed serious concerns about the possible termination of regular mail delivery to their isolated community.”

“It’s a relief to learn of the decision to keep the Kalaupapa Post Office open for business,” Congresswoman Hirono added. “The U.S. Postal Service clearly acknowledges the geographic isolation and unique needs of the Kalaupapa community.”

USPS officials said last year that Kalaupapa was named on a computer-generated list of small post offices within the geographic vicinity of larger offices. At one point, residents even received a letter from the USPS suggesting they could use the Kaunakakai post office a short distance away. While the nearest post office on topside Molokai is only about five miles from the settlement, it’s accessible only by plane, mule or a three-mile hike up the rigorous pali trail.

“We said from the beginning of this network optimization process that we would only consider closing retail postal facilities if we could do so while providing affected customers with alternate ways of accessing postal services,” said Gonzales Friday.

The Kalaupapa post office remains open, but with limited hours that began in October. Operating from 7 to 10 a.m. Monday through Saturday, Miller said residents would prefer if the hours could be extended.

Gonzales said a change in hours, while not currently planned, is “certainly possible.”

“We are continuously reviewing all aspects of our operations in order to more efficiently manage our personnel and financial resources,” he said.

Two post offices on Oahu and one on Kauai remain on the list for possible closure. Gonzales said the decision on those offices is still several months away.


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