Strict access rules urged for Kalaupapa peninsula


POSTED: Thursday, April 23, 2009

It's difficult to get into the isolated Kalaupapa peninsula of Molokai, and a local group urges the National Park Service not to make it easier for future visitors.

There should be no more than 150 visitors a day allowed into the Kalaupapa National Historical Park, with a maximum of 25 permitted to spend the night in guest quarters, said Ka Ohana O Kalaupapa.

No camping should be allowed, and the only concessions supporting visitors would be a bar serving snacks and drinks, a tour guide service and a shop limited to sales of books and other educational materials.

Those recommendations from the group of residents, supporters and families of former leprosy patients were prepared for National Park Service “;public scoping workshops”; being convened on five islands. They mirror current rules designed to protect the privacy of patients.

The agency will accept public comments at a 6 p.m. meeting today at Bishop Museum's Atherton Halau at 1525 Bernice St., and again at 9 a.m. tomorrow at the same location.

The Kalaupapa Ohana position paper titled “;To See This Place Stay Sacred”; aims to maintain the spiritual and historical character of the 4-square-mile park where 8,000 people, banished between 1866 and 1969, lived and are buried.

The group is adamant about protecting Kalawao, the eastern, windward side of the peninsula, where the first victims of the disease were sent. It is the site of thousands of unmarked graves, and of Protestant and Catholic churches built in the 1860s which are still in use. Ka Ohana O Kalaupapa wants bans against drinking, smoking, campfires, off-road vehicles, boom boxes and other noise-producing devices — except during church services.

“;Forbid the installation of electricity or any other modern conveniences other than flush toilets and cold running water”; at a pavilion, the position paper said.

Congress designated Kalaupapa a National Historical Park in 1980 but this is the National Park Service's first effort to create a comprehensive plan for its future management.

Planned changes will not be implemented while the remaining 20 patients live in the settlement. State law guarantees the patients lifetime residency at the peninsula and the state Department of Health provides health care for the population, the youngest of whom is 67.

The ohana proposed that the community be developed as a museum, maintaining the existing wooden-frame buildings, including the homes of current and past patients, to allow future visitors to glimpse at life in the settlement.

It said there should be special accommodation for visits from the families of former patients, and patients' relatives should be given priority in future employment by the National Park Service.