(BIVN) – The University of Hawai‘i Institute For Astronomy seems to be in agreement with Hilo State Senator Kai Kahele that ‘Imiloa Astronomy Center should take over educational outreach efforts at the VIS on Mauna Kea.
A State Senate resolution encouraging the transfer of such outreach efforts at the Mauna Kea Visitor Information Station Onizuka Center for International Astronomy to the ‘Imiloa moved through a joint Senate Water & Land and Hawaiian Affairs Committee with a positive recommendation on March 18.
The resolution “reinforces one of the conditions for the Thirty Meter Telescope in its conservation district use special conditions,” Sen. Kahele noted during the hearing, “and I think this reso even originated from the Association of Hawaiian Civic Clubs at their annual convention in the fall.”
ʻImiloa executive director Kaʻiu Kimura was on hand to tell the committee that the center, operated by the University of Hawaiʻi-Hilo, has come a long way since it opened in 2006. “Our sole mission is to be a educational outreach center that supports our community by sharing the stories of Maunakea from a cultural, natural ,and astronomical perspective,” Kimura testified. “We think that it’s an important and critical next step for ʻImiloa to expand its role within the university’s kuleana on the mountain where it concerns education and outreach.”
Kimura says they have already been working with staff of the VIS and of IFA “to start doing some staff training and some minor exhibit upgrades and some programmatic partnerships, so we’ve been moving in that step on a grassroots level for the past couple of years.”
The VIS, located at the mid-level Hale Pohaku area of the mountain, is currently run by Mauna Kea Support Services, which reports to the Institute For Astronomy.
Bob McClaren, the interim director IFA, told the senate committee that “we certainly support the goal of having ʻImiloa play a major role in the formulation and execution of education and outreach.”
“We need ʻImiloa on the mountain,” McClaren said. “I think there are operational details and so on that need to be talked through and worked out, to see to what extent we need to combine the change in the content aspect of it with changes in the actual administration.”
“Would IFA be willing to propose a revised management structure for the Hale Pohaku site that has the executive director of ʻImiloa at a co-level on an organizational chart where – in that capacity – would serve as the education and outreach coordinator?” Sen. Kahele asked.
“Yeah, I think those kind of conversations have already begun, senator,” McClaren answered.
Kahele then took his vision one step further. “Maybe the telescope’s contributing to an enhanced footprint, and help us with the CIP aspect of it, so that we can build a reasonably-sized education outreach center, more than what we have it at VIS,” the Hilo senator proposed. “Because the VIS is beyond capacity. If you go up there on an evening there’s 400 people, there’s hardly anywhere to park. The restroom facilities are overburdened. And for us to do what we’re doing at ʻImiloa, or even on a smaller scale, it will be nearly impossible under the current facility that we have there.”