Tuesday, March 29, 2016

When Can I Go to Kahoʽolawe?

This past weekend, the KIRC had the privilege of participating in the 24th annual Celebration of the Arts at the Ritz Carlton Kapalua, an event curated by Uncle Cliff Nae'ole. The presentations, panels and cultural experiences were rich, important and thought-provoking - it was a phenomenal event.

A common theme that stood out while representing Kahoʽolawe was "when can I go?" vs. "I've already been." While it was fascinating to meet the people on either end of the spectrum, it was also somewhat discouraging to see that this was the priority subject for those that we met. Is "going" to Kahoʽolawe the end of the conversation, or is there room to learn from, believe in and be provoked by this special place and its history?

It is important to relay that the KIRC is not an ecotourism organization; our mission is focused on restoring Kahoʽolawe. Ideally, that work is done in collaboration with volunteer groups - people that we are incredibly fortunate to work alongside - yet we remain extremely limited in our ability to train, manage and ensure safety in large numbers. The reality is that our volunteer accesses have been cut by two-thirds due to severe budget cuts. This has deeply impacted every aspect of our work - from base camp operations and staffing to outreach and communications. Everyone here has shifted their responsibilities to accommodate complete overhauls in maintaining the restoration of Kahoʽolawe and in participating in educational programs that bring Kahoʽolawe to the people. (As a point of reference, we engaged 791 volunteers on-island last fiscal year and 4,796 off-island. The current fiscal year projects 1/3 of those numbers due to staff and budget cuts).

When funds become available, we look forward to hosting all of those with heartfelt passion for this Island. Until that time, volunteer trips are limited to 12 groups per year, arranged 1-year in advance. Our hope is to better understand the motivation or intention that you have to physically accessing the Reserve so that we can best work together to ensure that (safe) opportunity still exists from legislative session to legislative session - for all of us. Without strong operations, safety and management programs, we cannot continue public access to Kahoʽolawe in any capacity. But, by getting to know you and your needs better, we can engage a larger community in "why" this place is important. To this end, we look to the 200 individuals that have accessed Kahoʽolawe this fiscal year. What knowledge and understanding were you able to bring back home with you that others can gain from - right now? How can others feel included? Can Kahoʽolawe be important to those that have not touched its shores?

Your thoughts are welcomed.

(Note: We have 10 ways to get involved listed at http://kircblog.blogspot.com/2016/01/10-ways-to-get-involved.html for those interested).