Just days before the release of a 50-state report outlining some of the country’s most promising ways to reconnect Americans to the natural world, Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar today highlighted two projects in the state of Hawaii that will be included in the final report — representing what states believe are among the best investments in the nation to support a healthy, active population, conserve wildlife and working lands, and create travel, tourism and outdoor-recreation jobs across the country.
Expanding recreational opportunities at the North Kona-South Kohala Coastline String of Parks on the island of Hawaii and creating a National Blueway on the Wailua River on Kauai are among 100 projects nationwide that will be highlighted in next week’s report — two in every state — as part of President Obama’s America’s Great Outdoors initiative to establish a 21st century conservation and recreation agenda and reconnect Americans to the outdoors.
The report is a result of 50 meetings with governors and stakeholders held by Salazar and other senior Interior officials to solicit ideas on how to best implement AGO in their states. These projects were identified for their potential to conserve important lands and build recreation opportunities and economic growth for the surrounding communities as part of close engagement with Gov. Neil Abercrombie and the state of Hawaii, as well as private landowners, local- and tribal-elected officials, community organizations and outdoor-recreation and conservation stakeholders. The full 50-state report will be released in the coming weeks.
“Under the America’s Great Outdoors Initiative, we are listening to the people of Hawaii and communities across America and working with them on locally-based projects that will conserve the beauty and health of our land and water and open up more opportunities for people to enjoy them,” Salazar said. “My staff and I have been asking each governor for the most promising projects to support in their states, and we will do all we can to help move them forward.”
The two projects in Hawaii highlighted by Salazar in the forthcoming report are:
North Kona-South Kohala Coastline / Ala Kahakai National Historic Trail
Thirty-one miles of coastline on the Island of Hawaii make up the North Kona-South Kohala Coastline String of Parks, beginning at Honokohau Small Boat Harbor and ending at Pu’ukohola Heiau National Historic Site. Hawaii wants to connect these seven national, state, and county parks via aquatic and terrestrial trails interspersed with multi-use recreation facilities. The National Park Service’s Ala Kahakai National Historic Trail already provides land links through parks in coastal areas, and it could be linked by sea as well, via recreational-boating opportunities.
In addition to providing recreation access, the North Kona-South Kohala Coastline has a rich cultural history, including ancient artifacts at sacred sites, and great potential for environmental education and interpretation. The National Park Service is currently working with a dozen local communities in the trail corridor to develop community-based trail-management plans. The plans include an economic-development component, which is focused on job creation within the recreation- and visitor-services fields. This project meets AGO outdoor-recreation goals and is supported by state and community entities.
Wailua River National Blueway
The slowly meandering Wailua River on the Island of Kauai is a heavily used recreational destination. Its culturally and historically significant features include the sacred Fern Grotto site, several Hawaiian Heiau, and ancient petroglyphs at the mouth of the river. Commercial tours and paddleboat entrepreneurs crowd the banks.
Managing the Wailua River’s limited area presents the challenge of balancing its heavy recreational use with public safety and impacts on natural and cultural resources. Demand for public recreation access has increased, but an aging marina infrastructure must be addressed.
The state needs help with increasing the access to the river, enhancing existing facilities, and assisting in the conservation of the natural and cultural resources. The long-term goal is to manage river use sustainably to protect river values while increasing recreation use along the blueway.
The report will also include potential actions by Interior and its bureaus to support the projects identified. In Hawaii, for example, the Department could designate the Wailua River as a National Blueway and provide technical, financial, and planning assistance to Hawaii both for increasing public access and restoring the river.
The Department could also provide technical and financial assistance to the Island of Hawaii to enhance the Ala Kahakai Trail and provide new access along the Kona Coast. It could work with the state and local communities in greenway, water trail, and interpretive planning for 31 miles of the Kona Coast. At the Wailua River, it could provide technical, financial, and planning assistance to Hawaii to both for increasing public access and restoring the Wailua River.
The Department of the Interior will work with each of its key bureaus — including the National Park Service and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service — to direct available resources and personnel to make these projects a reality.
“The America’s Great Outdoors Initiative turns the conventional wisdom about the federal government’s role in conservation on its head,” Salazar said. “Rather than dictate policies or conservation strategies from Washington, it supports grassroots, locally driven initiatives.”
For more information on the President’s America’s Great Outdoors initiative, click here.
To view a map of the projects already announced, click here.
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