Looking to the Future

National Parks Service taking on more responsibility in Kalaupapa.

Kalaupapa residents enjoyed an Easter coconut hunt this year. With two people per car, residents searched for nearly 100 decorated “Easter egg style” coconuts.

By Jennifer Smith

“Are we on the phasing out phase in Kalaupapa?” resident Clarence “Boogie” Kahilihiwa asked at the monthly meeting on the Kalawao peninsula. Several residents shared Kahilihiwa’s concern, noting an increased number of open positions on the peninsula.

State Department of Health (DOH) Chief Michael Maruyama gave a mixed answer at last Tuesday’s meeting in McVeigh Hall. He said the vacancies were the result of a lack of qualified applicants, but that the state is “in the process of transitioning infrastructure to National Parks Services (NPS)” which will eventually take over all operations in Kalaupapa.

NPS currently splits the electricity responsibilities with the Department of Health, and has undertaken several other projects in the past few years, including a grave marker restoration project and a waste reduction initiative.

NPS workers said they hope to begin the extensive grave marker restoration project at the end of the month, with a tentative blessing on April 21. The project will re-set and/or repair 91 markers by October 2009, pending full funding.

NPS hopes the work will lead to the reconnection of families. If successful, NPS project planner Jennifer Cerny said the project “will eventually launch into a larger cemetery management plan.” However, for now the focus is to address immediate safety issues and preservation issues.

“For me I really appreciate you guys picking up these things” because they have been ruined by repeated tidal waves, Kalaupapa resident Gloria Marks said. “What you folks are doing I thank you.”

With the dump closure looming on the horizon, NPS is also looking for ways to reduce, reuse, and recycle. Student Conservation Association intern Brooke Jarvis has teamed up with NPS to further efforts to reduce the amount of waste that enters the community.

“NPS has been working on ways waste can be dealt with for a long time,” Jarvis said. “We have a lot of potential and a lot of obstacles.”

One obstacle is materials. Workers are currently waiting for the barge to bring supplies to build a recycling and compost facility.

Until then Jarvis has found ways to reduce the amount of junk mail residents receive, eliminate the use of disposable dishware in the main kitchen, and reuse building materials when possible.

Another exciting development may soon be in effect for Kalaupapa residents, as Nui Air plans to begin regularly scheduled flights to the peninsula this summer.

Since the closure of Molokai Air Shuttle, Pacific Wings has been the sole scheduled provider of flights to the peninsula. Maruyama said Nui Air hopes to begin scheduled services this June.

Before closing the meeting Maruyama presented attendees with a copy of DOH’s annual report. The document includes several important developments on the peninsula including the results of three surveys, two concerning patient sponsored child visitations and one about the Ka Ohana O Kalaupapa sponsored patient memorial.

The report also addressed concerns about the retirement of the barge used to provide annual transport of durable goods and the use of ethanol gas in Kalaupapa.

Maruyama has also reminded DOH and NPS employees that the doctors in Kalaupapa have been contracted from the University of Hawaii, School of Medicine to provide services to Kalaupapa patients, and therefore patients receive full priority. Emergencies will be handled on a case by case basis.

Kalaupapa’s monthly meetings will now take place a half hour earlier at 11:30 a.m. The next meeting is scheduled for May 13.


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