Topside Molokai had two open houses today to discuss the future of the Kalaupapa National Historical Park with National Park Service staff.
Four preliminary alternatives for a General Management Plan, as part of the plan’s Environmental Impact Statement, were presented for public comments.The NPS partners on this plan — the Hawaii Department of Health, the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands, and the Department of Land and Natural Resources — have already reviewed and approved the current alternatives.
The Mitchell Pau’ole Center was organized into four stations today: visitor experience, resources, a comparison of the four alternatives, and designations and boundaries. NPS staff stood at each display to answer questions and to write comments and suggestions on chart paper.
“This is an extra step in the environmental compliance process,” explained Kalaupapa Parks Superintendent Stephen Prokop. Using the public comments to further analyze the four alternatives, the NPS will publish a draft General Management Plan in the next six months to a year. Another round of public meetings to offer comments and criticism will lead to a final plan to be completed in the next year-and-a-half.
Prokop said the feedback about this process has been almost all positive. “One of the benefits of this format is that people are more likely to speak up in this setting,” said Prokop, when compared to a large public meeting.
The seven statewide meetings over five days began yesterday in Kalaupapa. More than half of the Hansen’s disease patients attended the open house, said Prokop. “So far, the most important audience is the patient community of Kalaupapa. And they are comfortable with many aspects of the alternatives.”
Based on comments from patients and the general public during public scoping meetings in 2009, there will be no changes to Kalaupapa in the near term. “The NPS is always going to support what the patients want, especially in the short term, for the next 20 years or as long as there is a patient community,” said Prokop. “We’re not hearing from the patients or even the public any drastic changes in the short term.”
Former Molokai Postmaster Bo Mahoe attended the open house to learn more about the alternative plans. “For me alternative A, which stands for ‘as is,’ is the best of the alternatives. Keep everything exactly as it is,” said Mahoe.
Once the transition is complete and the Hawaii Department of Health has turned over all Kalaupapa responsibilities to the NPS, a long-term plan will go into effect.
Most alternative plans include a visitor center topside at Pala’au State Park. The number of visitors to Kalaupapa will still be limited. The varying opportunities for groups and individuals to experience Kalaupapa in different ways makes up the nuts and bolts of the plan. Preserving the current buildings and historic sites remains a top priority in all proposed plans.
One area of concern raised at yesterday’s Kalaupapa meeting involved the lack of medical facilities once the DOH is no longer on the peninsula.
“It’s a concern that was expressed by several people that we hadn’t anticipated,” said Prokop. “This is one example of how the Parks Service is benefiting greatly from public involvement.”
Prokop encourages anyone unable to attend these open houses to submit comments through other means. Written comments can be sent by email to KALA_GMP@nps.gov or go to http://parkplanning.nps.gov/kala (this is the NPS preferred method for receiving written comments). A letter can be mailed to the Kalaupapa National Historical Park, P.O. Box 2222 Kalaupapa, HI 96742. Superintendent Prokop can be reached at 808-567-6802 ext. 1100.