Since July, 2003, the National Audubon Society, the largest environmental organization in the world, has been entrusted by the people of O'ahu and the North Shore with caring for the treasures of Waimea Valley.
The document below (edited for length) was first presented in August, 2003 to the Office of Hawaiian Affairs. This proposal, which OHA funded, typifies the high-level creative thinking of the Audubon chapter in Hawai'i, the care and sensitivity with which they balance the many varied priorities of this vital Hawaiian valley.
It also represents the kind of vision we all hope will continue to serve the people of the North Shore, and the many inhabitants and spirits of Waimea.
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Creating an Audubon Center
A Vision for an Audubon Center at Waimea Valley
Waimea Valley is a place of beauty and integrity. Audubon envisions a transition of the current operation emphasizing a high visitor volume to an experience that attracts a significantly higher number of residents, as well as a targeted sector of the visitor community interested in in-depth, high quality experiences. Our goal is to transition from a primarily entertainment-focused experience to one that emphasizes meaningful education about the Valleys inspiring cultural and environmental assets.
As an Audubon Center, Waimea Valley will provide a unique experience where residents and visitors can immerse themselves in Hawaiian natural and cultural history. Gardens of native vegetation will tell the story of island evolution and vulnerability. Expanded Hawaiian ethnobotanical gardens and restored/preserved living sites and agricultural terraces will provide opportunities for scholars and students to explore life in pre-contact Hawaii. Guided tours and self-guided activities will enhance educational opportunities for all audiences. Native species will gradually be restored to uncultivated portions of the Valley, creating a backdrop of ancient Hawaii, and links to restoration science. Visitors to the Valley will be invited to explore the stream throughout its reaches, walk gentle paths, hike valley trails, or picnic in a secluded spot. Both residents and visitors will be attracted to the Valleys beauty, natural and cultural significance, education value, and recreational opportunities.
Statement of Need
Specific ideas and recommendations, which are too numerous to list here, include:
The community has put out the call for culturally-appropriate stewardship of Waimea Valley. The National Audubon Society has stepped up to respond to this call, but we cannot do it alone. While many in the community and nation will step forward to assist with the overall endeavor, it is our sincere hope the Office of Hawaiian Affairs will demonstrate leadership in supporting Hawaiian cultural resources and interpretation.
We will draw upon the extraordinary cultural, botanical and ecological resources of Waimea Valley to create an open-air university; a learning environment that welcomes all walks of life, while demanding site appropriate behavior and respect for the resources.
Projects and Programs
Before we can begin to care for the historic cultural treasures of Waimea Valley, we must know what they are. Towards this end, we would like to commission both an archaeological and cultural assessment of the Valley. Once this is accomplished, we would like to embark on a program of public archaeology, involving the community, under the supervision of a trained archaeologist, in the study, interpretation, and protection of select archaeological sites
Waimea Valley is widely regarded in the Hawaiian community as being a very special place. It served as a home of priests and a spiritual center from about the 12th century until the demise of the kapu system after the death of Kamehameha I in 1819. At that time, Waimea Valley belonged to Kamehamehas kahuna nui, Hewahewa, a direct descendant of Paau. Hewahewa died in 1837 and is buried near the entrance of the Valley.
The second piece of this project is a Cultural Assessment following guidelines produced by the states Office of Environmental Quality Control. An assessment of cultural impacts gathers information about cultural practices and cultural features, and promotes responsible decision making. Cultural assessments involve gathering historic and oral data about the cultural history of a site.
We believe that developing a firmer understanding of the cultural history specific to Waimea Valley will be an essential step in developing appropriate educational and interpretive programs and products. Moreover, the state recommends that cultural assessments be included in Environmental Impact Statements, something we will ultimately need when we undertake improvements to the site. Information about the scope of cultural assessments, as taken from the OEQC website, is included as an attachment to this proposal.
The third portion of this project is the public archaeology component, to commence in Year 2, after the formal archaeological survey has been completed. This is an idea that is gaining acceptance in archaeological circles as a way to engage the public, educate participants, and accomplish more than limited research budgets allow. It involves staffing a study site with a professional archaeologist(s), and supervising the work of regular community volunteers, casual visitors, and school groups from middle school to post-graduate classes. It has been practiced very successfully across the world, including, through pre-arranged classes, here in Hawaii.
These three projects directly support OHAs Strategic Plan Goal 2, Culture. Part of the intent of the goal is to
put into practice steps that will protect, re-establish and enhance Hawaiian cultural assets
. A portion the OHA need statement notes that sacred sites are being displaced, and ancient practices are no longer known or documented. At least, in Waimea Valley, we would like to take steps to ensure that this does not happen. The assessments and archaeological projects we are requesting funding for represent the first step towards protecting and re-establishing important Hawaiian cultural assets.
2. Establishing a Place of Learning
One of Audubons primary interests in establishing Centers across the country is to engage communities in meaningful ways, and draw them into experiences that help them learn more about, and become motivated to care for the special places in their neighborhoods. Waimea Valley presents the added opportunity for imparting the Hawaiian system of land management and stewardship within an actual ahupuaa (when combined with the adjacent Waimea Bay). The natural and cultural resources of the site provide a rich foundation for teaching and learning at all levels, one that cannot be duplicated in a traditional classroom setting.
In the first year, we will work to develop these relationships, create sound programs, and establish good operational systems. It is our intent to charge a nominal fee for most programs and classes, in order to pay the instructors for their time and expertise. We might also develop a system of trade for service, in which individuals with expertise in one area could trade teaching duties for enrollment in other classes. There would be no charge for attending forums, in which speakers representing various points of view on issues of relevance to the Hawaiian Community might be invited to present their ideas.
OHAs Strategic Plan:
Our efforts to establish Waimea Valley as a place of learning supports many of the goals outlined in OHAs strategic plan. The classes and workshops, particularly through the Cultural Learning Institute, will support OHAs cultural goals to safeguard Hawaiian traditions and practices.
3. Changing the Public Perception
Some members of the resident community have been involved in the evolution of Waimea Valley for years, and are committed to establishing a new vision for this special place. These leaders want to see Waimea as a place for residents, not just visitors. There are many more, however, that seem to expect that it will be business as usual, with a different operator. Audubons mission is one of stewardship and education, not profit. To succeed, we need to shatter the old perceptions of Waimea as only a tourist destination as quickly and effectively as possible. One way we may do this is through the presentation of special events that specifically target residents, and bring them into the Valley to see for themselves the changes that are transpiring.
We have developed a very preliminary list of the types of special events we would like to offer in Waimea. We will need to consult with our steering committees before locking down events or dates, but it is our intent to host a range of events designed to attract a variety of segments of the resident population (Hawaiians, families, kupuna, teens, artisans, farmers, etc.). The first of these events will be a Makahiki celebration, complete with an evening ceremony at the Hale o Lono Heiau. This is a specific request we have heard many times from the Hawaiian community. We may also incorporate a ceremony into the celebration to thank the many people who have come together to create this new vision for the Valley. Each special event will attract large numbers of people, and provide us with an opportunity to publicly acknowledge the contributions of the Office of Hawaiian Affairs. These large public events can also serve as an ideal venue to provide Hawaiian Registry Services, encouraging all people of Hawaiian ancestry to be documented.
OHAs Strategic Plan:
Our objective of changing public perceptions of Waimea Valley is a fundamental step towards establishing a sense of place. Having a clear sense of place, in turn, will help us to protect our Hawaiian traditions (Culture) and care for the land that sustains us (Environment-Natural History). Special Events can be designed to support these goals individually (keiki hula festival, for example) or collectively (Hawaiian farm fair, featuring traditional agricultural techniques). Public relations and marketing tools will help ensure that visitors arrive at Waimea prepared to learn, and leave with a greater understanding and respect for the accomplishments of the Hawaiian people, and the challenges that lay before us in modern times.