Senators dedicate park land
An ancient fishing village is part of the 420 acres south of Kailua-Kona
HONAUNAU, Hawaii » With two U.S. senators basking in the natural glory of a major Big Island park expansion, residents heard yesterday that they have played a role in preserving "a slice in time" at the park.
Sens. Daniel Inouye and Daniel Akaka helped dedicate a large swath of land in the Puuhonua O Honaunau National Historical Park along the shore south of Kailua-Kona. The park covers 420 acres and includes the remains of an ancient fishing village.
"The saying is that it takes a village, but it took a community and lots of friends to bring this day to fruition," park Superintendent Geri Bell said.
The ceremony capped a six-year federal process to incorporate the historically and culturally significant land into the park. It was first identified by the community as a potential park addition in 1977.
Akaka and Inouye led the effort to secure the $4.6 million in federal funding needed to preserve the land. Former U.S. Rep. Ed Case also supported the project.
"We have preserved in perpetuity one of the last Hawaii island coastal villages," Inouye said.
"We must work to ensure we leave this place better than we found it," he told residents gathered under palm trees at the park's ancient trail head.
Akaka said the Hawaii delegates to Congress believe preservation of cultural sites is important to future generations.
"This site is of great significance to native Hawaiians, students of history and archaeology, and the people of Hawaii today," he said.
The Trust for Public Land, a national nonprofit land conservation organization, purchased the tract surrounding the park in 2001. This gave the National Park Service time to find money for the purchase.
The late U.S. Rep. Patsy Mink introduced a bill to include the Kiilae lands within the park in 2001. The bill was the last successful legislation authored by Mink, who died in September 2002 of viral pneumonia.
Jon Jarvis, regional director of the National Park Service, pointed to the Trust for Public Land banner hanging behind the podium at yesterday's ceremony.
"That sums it up for me," he said. "A lot of people trusted a lot of other people to make this happen."
He noted the group, park service, legislators and the community had to "trust" dedication day would come.
"That trust is well placed," he said. "These things seem to take forever, but now this is protected forever," Jarvis said. "The National Park Service is in the forever business."
The addition more than doubled the park's size, to 420 acres from 182. It includes coastline, an ancient agricultural field system and several species of rare plants.
Now that the National Park Service has taken control of the land, visitor interpretive programs are being developed, including trail markings for points of interest.