‘Waimea’s in the house’

WAIMEA — Waimea is the first town in Hawai’i to be given the Dozen Distinctive Destinations designation by leaders of the National Trust for Historic Preservation, it was announced yesterday.

“Today, the National Trust for Historic Preservation says ‘move over, and make room, Waimea’s in the house, and they are now one of the 2006 Dozen Distinctive Destinations,'” said Lani Ma’a Lapilio, National Trust Foundation adviser.

“Though long overdue, this is the first time a Hawaiian destination has been named,” she said.

“And, isn’t it fitting that Kaua’i, our senior island, would lead the way to become the first awardee from our beautiful state? Aunty Aletha, thank you for putting the state of Hawai’i, and, more importantly, Waimea, on the map,” said Lapilio of Aletha Kaohi, manager of the West Kauai Technology & Visitors Center in Waimea, and one of the applicants for the designation.

“We do have wonderful places and stories to tell and share with the rest of the nation, and the world,” Lapilio told the audience members as she tried to hide the anxiety of trying to keep the distinctive plaque camouflaged within its cardboard mailer.

The town was officially named one of a Dozen Distinctive Destinations 2006 nationwide by officials with the National Trust for Historic Preservation during a special “local press event” yesterday at Waimea Plantation Cottages.

Throughout the verandahs of the plantation-era buildings, guests from the community, community organizations, as well as representatives from the County of Kaua’i, the Kaua’i Visitors Bureau and the Kaua’i Chamber of Commerce mingled and congratulated Kaohi on the award.

Lapilio noted that this is the first time a place in Hawai’i has earned this distinction.

The Dozen Distinct Destinations for 2006 is an annual list of unique and lovingly preserved communities in the United States, said a passage from a press release issued by leaders of the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

Waimea was selected from 93 destinations from 39 states vying for the honor, nominated by individuals or representatives of preservation organizations and local communities.

“Waimea is visually stunning, and rich in history from ancient to modern times,” said Richard Moe, president of the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

“The town celebrates its culture and heritage not only on special occasions, but in everyday life, making Waimea a jewel in plain sight.”

Lapilio said the program was started in 2000 by the National Trust for Historic Preservation as a means of drawing national attention to people in countless communities dotting the nation who have done extraordinary work protecting their local heritage through well-managed growth, a commitment to historic preservation, an economic base of locally owned small businesses, preserving and maintaining interesting and attractive architecture and cultural diversity, and all that provides for fun and meaningful activities for families and individuals from various walks of life.

Since its inception, the program has selected 84 Dozen Distinctive Destinations in 41 states throughout the nation, continued Lapilio, who has roots in Anahola.

Lapilio said that preserving communities and their landmarks helps tell the nation’s story in the hopes the children and grandchildren will be inspired by it, appreciate it, and seek to continue to protect these places as part of the nation’s collective identity.

“We now know that many of our visitors to the islands now include historical or cultural activities on their trips. The sheer volume of travelers interested in history and culture, as well as their spending habits, leaves no doubt that history and culture continue to be a significant and growing part of the U.S. travel experience, and thanks to the exemplary standards set by communities like Waimea, this industry will continue to grow and prosper,” Lapilio said.

Kaohi, manager of the West Kauai Technology & Visitors Center, accepted the plaque on behalf of other members of the community, saying, “I accept this plaque with much aloha for all of you, and to our ancestors that built Waimea, they who breathe life into the land and cared for this place. I give thanks for the creator that provided the wind and rain that made the canyon.

“Every island, and every town, has its own history,” Kaohi said. “But Waimea is unique because it is a living museum of natural history and beauty, historic sites, and many registered buildings.

“Waimea can claim to be first of many events: Cook’s landing, the first apple pie, The Main Street program that encouraged the buildings destroyed or damaged by Hurricane ‘Iniki be rebuilt as they were before,” Kaohi said while pointing out the numerous community figureheads who contributed to the town being what it is today.

Some of those included H.P. Fay‚, who planted the coconut trees; William Goodwin, for collecting the Hawaiian artifacts and lore; Mike Fay‚ and Chris Fay‚ for their love of the sugar industry; Koichi Masaki for his efforts to save the ocean and its resources; H.S. Kawakami, for his business sense; and Noburo Miyake’s electric company.

Kaohi credits Mattie Yoshioka of the Kauai Economic Development Board for being instrumental in Waimea getting the award, noting that “she kind of lets me do what I want.”

Kaohi, in conjunction with KEDB officials, reviewed the criteria for becoming a Distinctive Destination, and Lapilio recounted the application process.

“Yep, we got that, yep, we do that,” she remembered Kaohi saying while reviewing the criteria. After discovering they met all the criteria, Kaohi concluded the review by saying, “Why not apply?”

“I give thanks to my parents, William Kapahukaniolonookainoahou Goodwin and Margaret Kamala Kamai Goodwin,” Kaohi said in her closing prayer.

“They emphasized Hawaiian values: to care and to live aloha, to be in harmony with creation, to love ke akua, and be empowered by mana.

“Waimea is very special to me. I was born and reared in Waimea Valley. The Menehune Ditch watered the family taro fields. Waimea was my classroom, and my teachers were na kupuna,” Kaohi continued.

“Waimea was my playground, and my playmates were the creatures of the land. Waimea was where I felt safe. Waimea is where I met my husband, made my home, and raised our children,” she offered.

“This is going to be the beginning. Together, let us clean and maintain our resources,” Kaohi said.

The National Trust for Historic Preservation is a private, nonprofit, membership organization whose leaders and volunteers are dedicated to saving historic places and revitalizing America’s communities.

The trust was founded in 1949, and staff members and volunteers provide leadership, education, advocacy and resources to protect the irreplaceable places that tell America’s story.

Trust officials are recipients of the National Humanities Medal.

Members of the staff at the Washington, D.C. headquarters, six regional offices, and 28 historic sites work with the trust’s 270,000 members and those with thousands of preservation groups in all 50 states.

For more information, people may visit the trust’s Web site at www.nationaltrust.org.

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