KAHULUI – A new archive of thousands of documents that will be available to researchers, will be the next major addition to Haleakala National Park, Superintendent Sarah Creachbaum said Wednesday.
In a “state of the park” talk sponsored by the Friends of Haleakala National Park, Creachbaum said construction had already started on the small “curatorial center” near the park’s entrance and headquarters. About 30 people showed up to hear the presentation at the Maui Arts & Cultural Center, where Creachbaum also discussed the park’s visitor counts and funding.
Matt Brown, the park’s new chief of protecting endangered species, said the 800-square-foot archive building will bring together many objects that have gone unseen for years. Many of the items will be coming out of storage and some from collections, such as the Bishop Museum in Honolulu, he said.
In addition to being held in the archive, the pieces will occasionally be put on display in public buildings around the grounds of the 96-year-old park – as they are already from time to time. The archive center itself generally will be off-limits to the public and require park authorization for access, Brown said.
The collection has about 197,600 objects, 96 percent of which consist of archival records, such as documents and photographs, said P. Russell Shurtz, museum technician for Haleakala National Park.
“My favorite is the guest book from the trail rest house (now gone),” Creachbaum said in an e-mail Saturday to The Maui News.
The park hopes to build a separate museum to display the artifacts for the public in the future, she said.
The collection also includes archeological artifacts and artwork, such as sculptures made by Native Hawaiians who once lived on lands now within the 30,000-acre park, she said.
Contractor Oregon Woods started work in September on a concrete slab for the $278,5000 facility, although construction was put on hold in October to avoid disturbing endangered nene nesting in the area.
In-house construction is set to resume in the spring and be complete by the end of 2011, Shurtz said.
Turning to other park issues, Creachbaum said Wednesday that the park, which has 100 employees, will likely see its budget remain flat at $4.7 million for the coming year, if Congress does not increase funding for national parks.
A budget crunch has led to a shortage of patrol officers within the park, staff members said, but they are developing a partnership with the Maui Police Department to monitor trouble spots. They will target people who are sneaking into the park at night to steal boulders and crack down on loud parties in the campgrounds.
Haleakala saw visitor counts in 2010 dip by nearly 6 percent from the previous year, due largely to the continuing tourism slump, she said. Park staff estimate that 2011 will be down 4 percent as the economy struggles to rebound.
Haleakala had 1.3 million visitors this year, down from a peak of 1.7 million in 2007, Creachbaum said.
Goals for the coming year include increased focus on accommodating Native Hawaiians engaging in cultural or religious practices within the park, she said. Part of that plan will include offering Hawaiian language and culture classes to those who are interested, she said.
“These parks belonged to the Native Hawaiians, and we have a great responsibility to them,” said Navnit Singh, the new head of park interpretation.
Another new project for the coming year will involve a partnership with University of Hawaii researchers to study the long-term effects of visitor traffic and climate change on plant and animal species, including aquatic life, within the park, Creachbaum said.
Park staff will also begin an archeological survey of the former Nuu Ranch, which was acquired through a public-private partnership nearly three years ago, expanding the park by 4,300 acres. The rectangular parcel, which the federal government purchased from the James Campbell Estate for $3.3 million, or nearly $14 million less than estimated market value, is part of an ahupuaa that extends from the crater rim to the ocean.
The plan is to fence in the area, eliminate invasive species with the help of the Maui Invasive Species Committee and the Leeward Haleakala Watershed Restoration Partnership and replant Nuu with native plants, koa trees in particular. The archeological study is a necessary first step toward those goals, staff members said.
Fencing vast, fragile areas to keep out grazing ungulates and other invasive species has been a major achievement of the park, Creachbaum said.
“Nobody thought it would happen,” she said.
The result has been “a great resurgence” of native plant and animal species, she said.
With many parts of the park fence approaching 30 years old, a new generation of volunteers is needed to help restore them, staff said.
Holding open and honest community events like Wednesday’s is key toward creating a sense of stewardship for the park among residents, said Friends of Haleakala National Park Board President Matt Wordeman.
“I really enjoyed tonight,” Wordeman said. “It was an inside view of the park that a lot of others never get to hear.”