Under New Management
Gary Gill leads a new OHA unit to steer Waimea Valley
STORY SUMMARY »
The Office of Hawaiian Affairs will take over management of Waimea Valley, which houses an array of tropical plants, endangered Hawaiian moorhen and archaeological sites.
A Rich Resource
Some of Waimea Valley's vital resources:
» 5,000 species of tropical plants
» 78 archaeological sites
» 35-foot Waihi Falls (commonly known as Waimea Falls)
» Four of five species of Hawaiian native freshwater fish
» Endangered Hawaiian moorhen
Source: Office of Hawaiian Affairs
OHA filed papers earlier this week to form a limited liability corporation called Hi'ilei Aloha LLC, which will establish a nonprofit subsidiary that will manage the daily operations of Waimea Valley.
Gary Gill, former deputy director for environmental health for the state Department of Health, was selected as project manager for Hi'ilei Aloha.*
The transition between the National Audubon Society and OHA is to take place in the beginning of February.
This is an essential step to help ensure the preservation of the cultural and natural resources of the valley, said OHA Chairwoman Haunani Apoliona.
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Management of Waimea Valley will now be under the umbrella of its owner, the Office of Hawaiian Affairs.
The organization announced yesterday that it filed papers earlier this week to form a nonprofit limited liability corporation called Hi'ilei Aloha LLC, which means "to carry, care for and nurture lovingly." In turn, the corporation will establish a nonprofit subsidiary to manage the daily operations of Waimea Valley.
"This day marks a milestone for OHA and its solid demonstration of OHA's commitment to our kuleana of responsible stewardship, malama aina," said OHA Chairwoman Haunani Apoliona at a news conference held yesterday.
Gary Gill, former deputy director for environmental health for the state Department of Health, was selected as project manager of Hi'ilei Aloha.* He will assist in the transition and will create the subsidiary that will manage the 1,875-acre property off Waimea Valley Road on the North Shore. When the subsidiary is established, Gill will serve as its executive director.
Gill met with current staff members at Waimea Valley yesterday. He plans to split his time between the OHA office and the valley to prepare for the transition.
"I was very pleased of their enthusiasm toward the OHA plan, and I'm looking forward to working with the people who have proven to be dedicated to making Waimea Valley even more remarkable as it is now," he said.
The National Audubon Society decided to stop managing the valley in January after it could not reach an agreement with OHA on a long-term management lease.
The society had decided to stay on to run daily operations until OHA made a decision on how to manage the property.
"Following the Audubon Society's January 2007 announcement earlier this year, OHA continued to review different ways to operate the valley including finding another operator, creating a separate entity to manage it or managing it directly ourselves," said Apoliona. "We believe our choice, a choice by the trustees of the Office of Hawaiian Affairs, this choice is the most prudent and responsible path to take to manage the valley while protecting OHA's trust assets."
Audubon Society officials were notified of OHA's decision yesterday. "I'm very enthusiastic. I think it's a good transition," said Diana King, interim center director. "I'm optimistic about the future."
OHA officials said they plan to have a marketing strategy to attract more people to the park and generate revenue.
The Audubon Society faced a shortfall from the valley's entrance fees and programs of $250,000 to $500,000 a year, said OHA administrator Clyde Namuo. He estimated that it might cost up to $1 million a year to maintain the status quo at the valley.
Namuo added that they plan to do an inventory of what needs to be done at the valley. Some basic improvements include re-pavement of the roadway and signage.
There are no plans at this time to change the existing admission rates to the valley. "We'd like more people to visit. As we get better, more people will," said Jonathan Scheuer, OHA director of land management.
Some of the resources at the valley include 5,000 species of tropical plants in the Waimea Arboretum and Botanical Gardens and 78 archaeological sites.
Staff will be required to reapply for their jobs in December. OHA officials said they hope to expand staffing to help operate and preserve the expansive property. The transition is to take place at the beginning of February.
Michael Lyons, chairman of the North Shore Neighborhood Board, described the current staff at the valley as excellent. It will behoove OHA to retain them, he said. Lyons also said he supports more staffing.
The park has 30 full-time employees, 13 part-time employees and hundreds of volunteers.
Waimea Valley Time line
Late 11th century
Waimea Valley is established as an important ahupuaa, a mountain-to-sea land division containing necessary natural resources to sustain a substantial number of residents.
1970s through mid-1990s
Bishop Corp. (no affiliation with Bishop Estate) purchases Waimea for $355,000 and establishes Waimea Falls Park. For a 25-year period under the ownership of the Pietsch family, the valley is a commercial park with a restaurant and entertainment. A 150-acre arboretum and botanical garden is also established with native and endangered Hawaiian plants, as well as exotic species. During a period of peak commercial success, park attendance averages 2,000 per day.
Commercial viability of Waimea Falls Park falters.
1996 through 2000
New York investor and theme park developer Christian Wolffer assumes previous owner's mortgage and develops an "adventure park," but park attendance is in decline. Wolffer puts the valley up for sale at $25 million, later reduced to $19 million.
Investor Wolffer places the valley under bankruptcy protection. A New York bankruptcy court gives City and County of Honolulu permission to proceed with condemnation process to purchase the property.
2002 to 2003
The city takes possession of the property through condemnation and awards a lease to the National Audubon Society, which begins management of an ecological and cultural visitor center at Waimea Valley.
Wolffer's disclosure of plan to add luxury housing to Waimea Valley parcels sparks public opposition.
Under terms of a court settlement, the valley is purchased by a partnership of OHA, the city, the state Department of Land and Natural Resources, the U.S. Army and the National Audubon Society, with the title passing to OHA for the purpose of ensuring the preservation of Waimea Valley.
OHA takes steps to assume responsibility for operations at Waimea Valley from leaseholder Audubon Society by filing papers to form a limited liability corporation, named Hi'ilei Aloha.
Source: Office of Hawaiian Affairs
Wednesday, October 3, 2007
» Gary Gill was selected as project manager for Hi'ilei Aloha, a nonprofit group formed by the Office of Hawaiian Affairs to oversee management of Waimea Valley. A Page A6 article Saturday incorrectly reported that Gill was the property manager.
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