Photo: Tranquil Kahawai Nui (big river) and Kahana Valley in the background
Tranquil Kahawai Nui (big river) and Kahana Valley in the background.

In commemoration of OHA’s 40th anniversary, throughout 2021 Ka Wai Ola will feature select articles from the newspaper’s archives. This piece, about residents of Kahana Valley on O‘ahu pursuing a “Living Park” concept, is reprinted from March 1984.

It is way past time for action,” is the way Charles Hopkins, OHA land researcher, sums up his comprehensive status report on Kahana Valley State Park to OHA Trustees at their February board meeting.

“OHA believes that the record is clear that the living park concept has been stated, restated and firmly entrenched in the minds of the Legislature, State administration and the Board of Land Natural Resources. No further mandate or consideration is necessary,” Hopkins reports.

He also urged the 12th State Legislature currently in session to adopt a concurrent resolution placing a moratorium on the development of fresh water and ocean resources in Kahana until such time as the park is fully developed.

Hopkins recommended that:

  • The Department of Land and Natural Resources proceed within utmost haste to expedite its plan for a living park in Kahana by immediately implementing the provisions of the 1978 revised Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for Kahana Valley State Park.
  • The first order of business of DLNR should be the constitution and activation of the Kahana Valley Advisory Board “as the major policy initiating body for Kahana Valley State Park,” and be afforded the responsibilities as spelled out on page 15 of the revised EIS for the park. (Some action has already taken place on this matter.)
  • DLNR, with the advice of the Advisory Board, strive to resolve the residents’ housing problems in terms of location, renovations and/or reconstruction and develop the means of granting residents long term leases in the valley.

“It is 18 years too long. And two and one-half years to verify the status of 20 permittees is an uncalled for delay,” Hopkins said.

Hopkins researched the entire project, working in concert with DLNR Chairman Susumu Ono, staff of the State Parks Division, Land Management Division and residents of Kahana Valley and community and agency representatives who shared their experiences and knowledge of the valley in response to OHA’s concern and support.

In this thorough research of Kahana Valley, Hopkins chronicled events from 1800 to the present when legislation on development of the area as a park was adopted in 1970.

Since the state’s acquisition of Kahana Valley, residents have been living there on month-to-month revocable permits.

Their tenure remains uncertain.

Legislators and the Governor’s Task Force, however, declared their tenure as an integral part of a living park and at the Governor’s urging, BLNR adopted the living park concept. All this took place in the early 1970s.

The years dragged on and still written and spoken words about the residents’ role were not translated into action. These delays sapped the strength and vitality of the residents. A number of kupunas in the valley have died and their knowledge and lifestyle are lost forever. Homes have deteriorated and are being held together as best as can be expected under the tenuous conditions of a permit. Children have grown and have had to expand their energies in directions other than the perpetuation of the invaluable human resources of the valley.

Hopkins feels a lot of the problems of working with residents could have been avoided had the State seen the wisdom of using persons knowledgeable of the community lifestyle and sensitive to the rural environment to serve as a communication link between DLNR and Kahana residents.

It may not be too late to utilize this kind of resource, Hopkins suggests.