Congress Approves Funding for HI Ntl. Park Expansion

HONOLULU, HI, 12/8/04 – The Trust For Public Land (TPL) today praised Hawai’i’s congressional delegation for securing $4.6 million in federal funding for an important addition to Pu’uhonua o Honaunau National Historical Park on the Big Island of Hawai’i. The funding will be used to protect and expand the Park by acquiring the ancient Ki’ilae Fishing Village land, a historically rich 238-acre parcel adjacent to the Park that had been slated for development of residential homes.

The funding was part of the omnibus appropriation bill passed out of Congress earlier this week, and now goes to the President who is expected to sign the bill into law. U.S. Senator Daniel Inouye, a senior member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, played a key role in including funding for the Park acquisition in this year’s budget. The funding was also strongly supported by Senator Daniel Akaka and Congressman Ed Case.

“Ki’ilae is a treasure that must be protected for residents and visitors alike,” said Senator Inouye. “Protecting this land in South Kona means that future generations will always have open space to look out over and a window of history to look through.

The Pu’uhonua o Honaunau National Historical Park was originally authorized by Congress nearly a half-century ago to preserve and interpret a fascinating element of Hawaiian history and culture. Formerly known as the City of Refuge National Park, the Park preserves much of the original site where until the early 19th century Hawaiians could flee for absolution and clemency.

Today, nearly a half-million visitors every year attend cultural demonstrations of traditional Hawaiian arts and crafts, hike along a historic trail to various archeological sites, observe wildlife including the endangered green sea turtles in Keone Ele cove, and snorkel in the clear waters of Honaunau Bay.

“We applaud Senator Inouye, Senator Akaka, and Congressman Case for their continued commitment to protecting important cultural lands in Hawai’i,” said Tily Shue, Director of TPL’s Hawaiian Islands program. “This is wonderful news for Kona and a saving grace for a precious piece of our history that could have been lost forever.”

When the Park was established in 1955, nearly two-thirds of the ancient village of Ki’ilae remained undiscovered, separated from the park by private ownership. A proposed development of ranch homes on the culturally sensitive land met with opposition from Native Hawaiian and environmental groups five years ago. In 2001, the Trust for Public Land purchased the property with the help of a philanthropic loan. TPL held the property under its protection until funding was made available for the Park to take on the land.

“This is a win-win for everyone involved,” added Shue. “This land that was once headed down the road towards litigation is now headed down the road to preservation.”

“I am excited and elated that the National Park Service will be able to properly care for the cultural treasures at Ki’ilae,” stated Geri Bell, Superintendent for the Historical Park. “The community, TPL, and our Senators and Representatives all deserve a huge mahalo for getting us to a place where this land can finally be protected.”

Authorization to add the lands at Ki’ilae was one of the last bills introduced by the late Congresswoman Patsy Mink. A similar bill was introduced in the Senate by Senator Akaka. In late 2002, Congress approved the legislation to expand the park to include the Ki’ilae Village property, an area extremely rich in cultural sites and expected to provide important clues about everyday Hawaiian life in the past. Ki’ilae was a working fishing village until the 1930s, and includes agricultural features, structures, and walls interspersed among recreational areas and burial sites. Acquisition of the land is a critical step toward protecting the extraordinary early Hawaiian cultural sites and expanding public understanding and interpretation of cultural traditions and Hawaiian subsistence patterns.

“This is a fitting tribute to the legacy of Patsy Mink who worked so hard during her life to protect this land,” said Bob Jacobson, Hawai’i County Councilmember for the District. “This funding and protection is tremendously appreciated in an area that is experiencing rampant development and trying to hold on to its way of life.”

The Trust for Public Land, established in 1972, specializes in conservation real estate, applying its expertise in negotiations, public finance, and law to protect land for people to enjoy as parks, greenways, community gardens, urban playgrounds, and wilderness. With funding from the Forest Legacy Program, the federal Land & Water Conservation Fund, state and local open-space funds, and other public and private investments.