Kona National Park Expansion Celebrated (HI)

Kona, HI, 2/22/07: The Trust for Public Land (TPL) and the National Park Service (NPS) held a long awaited dedication and blessing ceremony today, marking the addition of the fragile and culturally rich lands of Ki’ilae to the Pu’uhonua o H?naunau National Historical Park (also known as the “City of Refuge”).

Community members, TPL, NPS personnel, and U.S. Senators Daniel K. Inouye and Daniel Akaka celebrated the permanent protection of these lands for public enjoyment. The children of Ke Kula ‘Ehunuikaimalino, a local Hawaiian immersion charter school, opened the ceremony with conch blowing and an ‘oli. Kahu Nancietta Ha’alilio performed a blessing, and entertainment was provided by Ken Makuakane. Aunty Rachel Kalili performed the hula H?naunau Paka in honor of the occasion.

Six years ago, in the face of certain development, TPL stepped in to purchase and hold the property until the complex process of re-drawing the park boundary, securing the funding, and transferring the property to the Park Service was completed in 2006.

The nonprofit TPL and NPS recognized Senators Inouye and Akaka, as well as the late Congresswoman Patsy T. Mink and Congressman Neil Abercrombie for the ultimate success of the acquisition. Both Akaka and Mink introduced bills in 2001 to include the Ki’ilae lands within an expanded park boundary, and the legislation was signed into law after Mink’s passing, capping a legacy of environmental protection by the late Congresswoman. Once the expansion bill was signed into law, federal funds were sought to permanently protect the land.

Senator Inouye, a senior member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, and Senator Akaka led the Hawai’i delegation’s effort to secure the $4.6 million from the Land and Water Conservation Fund to conserve the land as part as the National Historical Park.

Senator Inouye said, “This celebration marks the permanent protection of some of Kona’s extraordinary early Hawaiian cultural sites. As the lands protected under the ‘Pu’uhonua’ of today grow, so will the public’s understanding of cultural traditions and Hawaiian subsistence patterns.”

“This day is a tribute to Patsy’s work on behalf of Hawai’i’s land and people,” said Senator Akaka. “We worked very hard together to protect this culturally important land in perpetuity for our future generations to learn from and enjoy. This is a wonderful day for Pu’uhonua O H?naunau. This site is of great significance to Native Hawaiians, students of history and archaeology and the people of Hawai’i today. A dense population was supported here in a complex economic system that functioned for centuries. It was led by powerful chiefs and mostly likely supported the development of Kamehameha the Great’s army and contributed to his rise to power. Today, many residential, religious, agricultural and ceremonial sites remain, and will now be protected as part of the national park system.”

“Our Congressional delegation worked hard to see this through,” said Lea Hong, Director of TPL’s Hawaiian Islands Program. “TPL could not protect Hawaiian landscapes without their assistance and support. I hope that many generations of children will have the opportunity to enjoy this park and the new addition, just as I did when I was a young girl and visited the park with my mother and grandmother.”

Geri Bell, superintendent of Pu’uhonua o H?naunau NHP, said, “Today’s dedication is also a tribute to the partnerships that made it possible for the National Park Service to protect and interpret this important part of Hawai’i’s history. Our sincere mahalo to the Congressional delegation, The Trust for Public Land, the landowner and developer, the community, and, most particularly, the descendants of Ki’ilae for their deep cultural attachments to this ‘?ina.”

The acquisition means that Pu’uhonua o H?naunau NHP will grow from 182 acres to 420, and encompass more coastline as well as an ancient agricultural field system in the mauka lands. The historical park was established in 1961 and currently receives approximately 500,000 visitors a year.

The immaculately restored coastal park features a sacred compound that serves as the most famous example of a “Pu’uhonua” in Hawai’i, an area of safe haven for those who broke the kapu system under traditional native Hawaiian law and sought clemency.

The Trust For Public Land is a national nonprofit land conservation organization founded in 1972 to conserve land for people. In Hawai’i, TPL works side by side with land trusts, community groups and public agencies to protect lands important to the people of Hawai’i.