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Queen Liliuokalani Trust opens Kepookalani Interpretive Center

Visitors check out the video display during the blessing of Kepookalani Interpretive Center. (Hawaii 24/7 photo by Karin Stanton)


Queen Liliuokalani Trust (QLT) celebrated the opening of Kepookalani Interpretive Center in Kona with traditional oli (chants), lei and a blessing Tuesday.

The interpretive center is named in honor of Queen Liliuokalani’s great grandfather and reveals the Queen and her alii family’s close association with the ahupuaa of Keahuolu in north Kona.

The Kepookalani Interpretive Center provides an entryway to an adjacent 25-acre Historic Preserve, which contains key elements of a traditional agricultural complex that sustained the lives of ancient Hawaiians within the ahupuaa of Keahuolu.

Interactive exhibits, including a media structure that takes people on a video journey into the past, tell a fascinating story of daily life in Kona over four centuries ago.

A remarkably well-preserved mahiai (farm) in the Historic Preserve is a remnant of the vast and sophisticated “Kona Field System” of food production that enabled Native Hawaiians to thrive.

In addition to traditional Hawaiian sites, the Historic Preserve also contains the northernmost portion of the Great Wall of Kuakini, a high stone wall that extends roughly six miles south, constructed during the early 1800’s.

When fully completed, the 25-acre Keahuolu Historic Preserve will feature interactive, interpretive and educational stations that traverse a system of raised boardwalk trails and footpaths leading to significant agricultural and ceremonial sites, traditional habitation complexes, monuments and activity areas.

The Historic Preserve, with approximately 100 archaeological sites and nearly 500 component features, will allow people to experience, understand and appreciate the lives of those who once lived and worked these lands that today might be considered as environmentally marginal.

“Kepookalani Interpretive Center and the Keahuolu Historic Preserve will build a strong bridge between ancient culture and modern technology, and firmly connect each generation to the land our beloved Queen left in our care,” said Queen Liliuokalani Trust Chairman Thomas K. Kaulukukui, Jr.

The Kepookalani Interpretive Center is the result of a partnership forged between the Federal Highway Administration, state Department of Transportation and the County of Hawaii for the construction of the Ane Keohokalole Highway, funded by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA). Kona’s new mid-level road represents the largest expenditure of ARRA monies for transportation infrastructure in Hawaii.

Given the Ane Keohokalole Highway project size and location, construction of a new highway could have had an adverse effect on certain historic properties eligible for inclusion in the Hawaii State Register of Historic Places and the National Register of Historic Places.

Recognizing the challenge, Federal Highways and the County of Hawaii invited QLT and other Native Hawaiian Organizations to participate in consultations pursuant to Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act. QLT, having previously deeded land to the County of Hawaii for a portion of the highway, designated an additional 25 acres of adjacent legacy land as a historic preserve.

Unique to other Federal Highway projects in Hawaii, the mitigation plan funded activities to preserve and protect historic/cultural resources within the Keahuolu Historic Preserve as well as the construction of the interpretive center on a parcel of QLT legacy lands.

“Due to QLT’s legacy connection to Hawaii’s rulers and our land contribution, Queen Liliuokalani Trust took a leadership role to mitigate the impacts of a new mid-level road and to create a new opportunity through the Kepookalani Interpretive Center and Historic Preserve to share Hawaii’s history with future generations,” Kaulukukui said.

As a perpetual charitable trust, QLT continues to serve a role in the success of the project. Queen Liliuokalani Trust has made a commitment to maintain the Kepookalani Interpretive Center and Historic Preserve in perpetuity as a place where QLT’s primary beneficiaries— orphan and destitute children of native Hawaiian descent—as well as local school and community groups can learn about the rich history of the area.

The Interpretive Center and Historic Preserve are also envisioned as a legacy facility where the Native Hawaiian community can find spiritual renewal of their culture and visitors can have a totally unique cultural experience.

The Interpretive Center’s ongoing role also involves accepting and curating other artifacts recovered within the ahupuaa of Keahuolu.

About Queen Liliuokalani Trust

The Queen Liliuokalani Trust was established by Hawaii’s last ruling monarch, the beloved Queen Liliuokalani. Her Deed of Trust, executed in 1909, directs that the Queen’s lands be utilized to serve and provide for orphan and destitute children in perpetuity.

The core Trust assets include some 6,400 acres of land, the majority in Kona. Outreach to beneficiaries is delivered through the Queen Liliuokalani Children’s Center which is supported by revenues and income derived from the Trust’s real estate holdings and investments.

The Children’s Center is dedicated to improving the welfare of orphan and destitute children throughout the State of Hawaii. With locations on each Hawaiian island with the exception of Niihau, the Queen Liliuokalani Children’s Center serves approximately 11,000 children directly and more than 75,000 additional children indirectly each year.

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