The latest addition to the Hawaii Visitor and Convention Bureau (HVCB) Warrior Marker program has just landed in Volcano Village. The Ni’aulani Rain Forest located off Old Volcano and Kalanikoa Roads has officially been designated as a site of historic significance on Hawaii’s Big Island.
While Volcano Art Center (VAC) currently serves as its official caretaker, the active nurturing of Ni’aulani began around the same time as the Warrior Marker itself.
Depicted in deep red and gold, the familiar figure of King Kamehameha has been used since the early 1930’s to mark Hawaii’s safe, accessible areas that are deemed to be of unique cultural, historic and scenic value.
In 1920, Ni‘aulani was first recognized by the state Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR) as a forest reserve and headquarters for island foresters. For decades, the foresters who resided on site restored and protected Ni‘aulani to the extent that they could with limited (human) resources, removing invasive kahili ginger and other problematic plants. They also sheltered the acreage from the devastating effects of cattle grazing and harvesting of old-growth ‘ōhi‘a and koa trees that plagued the surrounding rain forests.
When VAC chose to expand beyond Hawaii Volcanoes National Park into the neighboring Volcano Village, it was with the understanding that the organization continue to carry out the generational legacy of forest stewardship and – most importantly – help the community connect with this rare natural resource on educational and experiential levels.
According to Tanya Aynessazian, VAC’s Chief Executive Officer, the Ni‘aulani Rain Forest of today attracts a special kind of individual, one who seeks out profound inspiration by a true native Hawaiian rain forest. Rather than encountering impenetrable walls of alien kahili ginger or princess flower in the understory as seen in the surrounding Kīlauea rain forests, guests are introduced to a native forest floor consisting of indigenous flora such as flowering shrubs, ferns, mosses and the opportunistic fungi. Many such plants – and native rain forests in general – are of utmost significance in Hawaiian traditions. It is because of this varied native plant inventory that Ni‘aulani also fosters diverse populations of native bird species.
Volcano Art Center is honored to be facilitators between Ni’aulani and the steadfast people who devote an average of 800 annual volunteer hours to help restore and protect this rare treasure. For more information, visit the VAC Niaulani Campus online at www.volcanoartcenter.org or contact Tanya at (808) 967-8222 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Volcano Art Center is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization created in 1974 whose mission is to promote, develop and perpetuate the artistic, cultural and environmental heritage of Hawaii through the arts and education.
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