NOAA Kaua‘i discovery center plans released

The next step toward a Kaua‘i National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Sanctuary Discovery Center will take place from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sept. 10 at the King Kaumuali‘i Elementary School cafeteria in Hanama‘ulu.

NOAA recently announced the release of its planning document “A Facility Strategy for the Kaua‘i NOAA Sanctuary Discovery Center,” developed in collaboration with the Kaua‘i community. It details plans for the creation of a marine interpretive center for Kaua‘i, a NOAA news release states.

NOAA’s Office of National Marine Sanctuaries will host the workshop next week to review the document, which contains findings and public comments from the two prior public workshops.

“The Kaua‘i discovery center will be modeled on similar successful centers such as the PMNM Mokupapapa Discovery Center in Hilo and the Kihei Learning Center in Maui,” said Allen Tom, ONMS regional director. “However, the Kaua‘i center will be uniquely Kauaian. Public comments have been almost unanimous that the island of Kaua‘i has a special environmental story to share with the rest of the world and that is what needs to be the focus of this center.”

The office will continue to work with the residents of Kaua‘i to develop the next steps to move the discovery center project forward, the release states.

Kaua‘i is the northernmost boundary of the Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary. It is also the largest and most populated island nearest the nation’s newest World Heritage site, Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument. The discovery center will feature interactive displays about the sites as well as a public meeting space with the possibility of a wetlab and other resource areas.

A number of options are being considered for the Kaua‘i center, including co-locating or rehabilitating an existing building rather than building a new center from scratch, the release states. Given today’s economic climate, it may be more cost effective to partner with an existing facility or to rehabilitate an existing location as ONMS has done at the Old Courthouse in Lahaina, Maui.

No location for the Kaua‘i center has been identified, although several locations around the island have been suggested.

“The document lays out the various requirements for the center and suggests what it should contain,” Tom said. “I am grateful to the people of Kaua‘i for sharing their ideas for the center. ONMS could have simply built a visitor center, but what good would that have done if none of the island residents found the center useful?”

The document, written by Facility Programming and Consulting, contains more than 2,000 hours of input from community leaders, user groups and visitors.

“It was gratifying to see the support from our Kaua‘i community and their enthusiasm for this exciting project,” said Puanani Burgess, a Native Hawaiian cultural practitioner who facilitated the community meetings. “I look forward to continuing with the planning process, all the way through to the blessing of the new Kaua‘i Discovery Center.”

ONMS will continue its efforts to collect comments as the project moves forward and the public is encouraged to attend the free workshops.

Visit the Office of National Marine Sanctuaries (http://sanctuaries.noaa.gov/), ONMS Pacific Islands Region (http://sanctuaries.noaa.gov/about/pacific.html) for more information.

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