(BIVN) – Residents who live in the area surrounding Kealakekua Bay had a chance to share their thoughts on a Draft Environmental Impact Statement for a Master Plan that will shape the future of the culturally and historically significant place, considered by many to be a wahi pana.
Officials from the The Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources’ Division of State Parks and consultants with Belt Collins Hawaii hosted a public meeting on Saturday at Konawaena Elementary School, as part of the park planning process.
According to DLNR, the plan addresses the priority issues of parking and access to the bay in the Nāpō‘opo‘o section of the park, as well as toilet facilities, and the protection and interpretation of archaeological sites in the Ka‘awaloa Section. The draft document can be found on the Office of Environmental Quality Control website.
“As we update our master planning for Kealakekua Bay State Historical Park, we’ve made a concerted effort to integrate planning for the bay and ocean recreation with the land-based park and the concerns of the local community” said Curt Cottrell, DLNR State Parks administrator. “We know how popular this bay is with both residents and visitors, and are seeking input on management and development that will balance recreational use with the historical and cultural values of this very special place.”
This background was provided by DLNR:
The master plan update for Kealakekua Bay State Historical Park was initiated in 2008 but planning took on additional aspects of park management and ocean recreation after the bay was included in the park in 2012. Two public meetings were held in January and August 2016 to solicit input from the community on the preparation of the master plan.
The park was established in 1967 with additional land acquired for the park in the early 1980s. Today, the park encompasses 221 acres of land area around the bay and 315 acres of the bay for a total of 536 acres. The park consists of 4 sections – Nāpō‘opo‘o section at the southern end of the bay, Pali Kapu o Keōua or the central pali, the Ka‘awaloa section at the northern end of the bay, and the bay.
Park development is currently limited to the picnic pavilion with restrooms, an outdoor shower, and limited parking at Nāpō‘opo‘o. The master plan includes basic visitor facilities – parking and restrooms. It includes an interpretive center and trails that can help visitors learn about history and cultural resources. It limits access to Ka‘awaloa and to the spinner dolphin rest area, sites where visitors could affect both resources and the overall ambiance of the park. It addresses safety issues for swimmers in Ka‘awaloa cove. The proposed parking arrangements and use of Nāpō‘opo‘o landing are intended to reduce impacts of visitation on the community while encouraging safe use of watercraft by local residents and visitors alike.
Kealakekua Bay is one of the most significant cultural and historical places in Hawai‘i. It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1973. As one of the seven chiefly centers of Kona in the 1700s, Kealakekua was a favored place for the ali‘i (chiefs) to reside for part of the year. The Kona field system on the slopes above the bay was an extensive agricultural system growing dry land kalo and ‘uala (sweet potato), and the sheltered bay provided a wealth of marine resources and good canoe landings. The ali‘i compound was centered at Ka‘awaloa while the kahuna (priests) occupied the religious complex at Nāpō‘opo‘o. It was during the Makahiki season in January 1779 that Captain James Cook arrived at Kealakekua. Cook’s party spent almost a month recording the settlement at Kealakekua in journals and drawings. Kalani‘ōpu‘u returned to Ka‘awaloa from Maui upon news of Cook’s arrival. Kamehameha was a young chief residing at Nāpō‘opo‘o. Cook’s death at Ka‘awaloa on February 14, 1779 is marked by the Cook Monument, a white obelisk located along the shoreline at Ka‘awaloa.
Ka‘awaloa is a culturally sensitive area with an important archaeological complex that reflects continuous occupation from the early Hawaiian period to 1940. In Nāpō‘opo‘o, Hikiau heiau is a monumental reminder of Hawaiian tradition. The Nāpō‘opo‘o portion of the park has been more extensively changed by historic land use, recreation and park development, vehicle access to the bay and the surrounding residential community than Ka‘awaloa.
Designated a marine life conservation district (MLCD) in 1969, the bay is recognized for its diversity of marine life. Snorkeling and diving at Ka‘awaloa cove has increased in recent years due to the exceptional abundance of coral and fish in the shallow waters in this portion of the bay. Kealakekua Bay is also significant for the pod of nai‘a (spinner dolphins) that sometimes come into the bay to rest during the day.