The state announced plans to develop a cultural park on 77 acres at the former Barbers Point Naval Air Station in Kalaeloa after the Navy conveyed the land to the Hawaii Community Development Authority yesterday.
The land transfer is a small but culturally important piece of a slow-moving plan to reuse parts of the 3,700-acre naval base that closed in 1999.
Anthony Ching, HCDA executive director, said the agency plans to partner with a nonprofit organization representing community groups to implement the park plan, which is envisioned to include public access and interpretative presentations of cultural elements on the site and the broader area, including a trail system and sinkholes possibly linked to agricultural, habitation and burial uses.
Ching said funding for the park endeavor is anticipated to come from leasing other land at the former base to solar energy farm operators. The land identified for that use is expected to be conveyed by the Navy soon, and includes about 213 acres, some of which contains the endangered akoko shrub and a big sinkhole called Ordy Pond that will be preserved.
The land being transferred to HCDA was previously rejected by other state, county and federal agencies. HCDA was allowed to accept the property after a federal law was passed last year allowing HCDA to acquire property that the Navy previously intended to convey to other entities.
"This is our opportunity to take these lots that nobody else wanted," Ching said. "We’re optimistic that good things can happen in this area."
Besides the 77 acres for Kalaeloa Heritage Park on two parcels, the land conveyed yesterday included 10 acres near the shore that the Honolulu Board of Water Supply passed up. The HCDA is exploring possible uses for the site, including leasing it for commercial renewable energy use.
Gov. Linda Lingle said in a statement the archaeological, historical and cultural elements of the parcels gave the land special importance to the state. "We are pleased that these three land parcels have become assets of the state," she said.
The Navy still plans to convey another roughly 500 acres, mostly to the city Department of Parks and Recreation, that includes a shoreline park area. Much of this pending transfer is expected to eventually happen, though HCDA may end up accepting some small portions of the 500 acres. After that, the Navy will have conveyed just about all of the nearly 2,800 acres it intended to convey to other government entities. The Navy retained about 900 acres for its own use or to lease or sell to private firms.