Other Views

By Michelle Spalding Matson

Saturday, December 25, 1999

Diamond Head
monument plan

THE Land Board's approval of the Diamond Head State Monument Master Plan on Dec. 10 was another important step toward the 1979 Diamond Head State Monument Plan becoming a reality.

The 1979 plan called for expansion of the trail system and picnic areas, a modest interpretive center on the interior slope between the two tunnels and dryland reforestation of the crater.

The plan also noted that the crater once contained a small natural lake, but this became a military garbage dump and was filled over the years.

The 1999 Master Plan property adheres to the original plan's concept of the crater's interior being solely a visual and interpretative experience.

In addition, the Master Plan emphasizes use of existing sites to enhance the interpretation of the history of the crater.

The most significant additions are restoration of the natural wetland, future removal of parking from the crater interior, and the opportunity to use the Cannon Club as an orientation center with sustainable visitor amenities.

The Master Plan does not outline the beginning of major development of Diamond Head crater -- but undevelopment. Implementation of the plan includes removal of existing industrial facilities from the crater floor, thus improving the crater's visual and educational experience of natural viewplanes and historic features from which our residents and visitors can mutually benefit.

Most important, the plan continues to ensure that Diamond Head is preserved, protected and maintained as a natural resource in perpetuity for future generations. The people of Hawaii have endeavored nearly 50 years to meet this goal.

First came the discovery of an old map in the state archives in 1953 by two dedicated preservationists, Agnes Conrad and Alice Spalding Bowen. The map plotted the location of one of Oahu's most significant ancient heiau, Papa'ena'ena, under Walter Dillingham's rose garden. This map led to the protection of Diamond Head as a national natural landmark in 1968, the culmination of the first grass-roots effort to halt development of highrises around Diamond Head.

During this time, the Diamond Head promontory was declared a state monument by governor's executive order in 1962. Later, Diamond Head crater was listed on the Hawaii Register of Historic Places in 1982 and the National Register of Historic Places in 1983.

The Diamond Head Citizens Advisory Committee was established in 1977 to develop a conceptual park plan for the crater. This plan, to restore and enhance the natural experience in the crater for park users, was approved and adopted by the Land Board in 1979.

The plan languished in limbo for 13 years until the Federal Aviation Administration proposed expanding its facility in the crater to 38,000 square feet. Some status-quo citizens parroted a "done deal" and mildly suggested some landscape screening around the proposed facility.

But bolder citizens, including members of the neighborhood board, launched an effort to have the FAA facility relocated and the crater returned for a park.

As the result of the community's tenacity and the efforts of then-Rep. Les Ihara, the 1992 state Legislature unanimously supported relocation of the FAA, expansion of the boundaries of the monument to include the entire crater, reactivation of the Diamond Head Citizens Advisory Committee, and implementation of the Diamond Head State Monument Plan.

Today, PBR Hawaii, the planning consultants contributing to the Master Plan are to be commended for their professionalism and sound planning acumen, patience and sensitivity to the meaning and the purpose of the Diamond Head State Monument Plan.

The governor is to be commended, also, for now supporting a smaller interpretive center focused on the natural science and historic elements of the crater.

WE have recognized that the annual million-plus visitor count has challenged the crater trail system's carrying capacity, and that controls are needed to protect this treasured natural resource. We survived four Disneyfied theme park proposals in 1996, and a proposed 117,000-square-foot museum/gift shop/ snack shop/ad infinitum interpretive center in 1998. The master plan approved by the Land Board brings us back to basics so the natural ambience and historic aura of the crater can shine through.

In carrying forth, the people of Hawaii now can feel the sense of pride and accomplishment of nearly 50 years of striving to protect and preserve Diamond Head. May this effort serve as an enduring example of the unrelenting care for this land shared by many -- those of us today and, as importantly, those yesterday -- who strove to protect and preserve the slopes and crater lands of Diamond Head as natural open space for future generations, in perpetuity.

Michelle Spalding Matson is chairwoman of the
Diamond Head Citizens Advisory Committee.

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