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Nisei veterans donate land for a peace park on Maui

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This photo taken July 1, 2015, shows remnants of a Kahului Railroad rock-crushing plant that operated from 1921 to 1946 in Wailuku, Hawaii. The 4.5-acre parcel of scrub brush will be transformed into a peace park honoring Maui veterans, possibly by the end of the year.

WAILUKU » A 4.5-acre parcel of scrub brush mauka of Kahului Beach Road as it turns into Lower Main Street will be transformed into a peace park honoring Maui veterans, possibly by the end of the year.

The Nisei Veterans Memorial Center recently donated and conveyed the undeveloped site that runs from the center to the Kanaloa Avenue-Kahului Beach Road intersection to the nonprofit Hawaiian Islands Land Trust, The Maui News reported last Thursday.

"NVMC is excited about the preservation of this open space as a peace park honoring all Maui veterans and is happy to donate the property to HILT for this purpose," Brian Moto, center president, said in a news release. "We respect HILT’s distinguished record of land stewardship and conservation and believe that our collaboration will result in a lasting tribute to our veterans."

The site will be cleared of invasive species while preserving native species, such as naupaka. A nature trail, a small public parking area, picnic tables, benches and information signs will be put up, said Ted Clement, executive director of the land trust that manages 17,500 acres in conservation through fee ownership and conservation easements.

He added that the site is a buffer for Kahului Bay, helping to filter runoff before it hits the shoreline. There also are Hawaiian cultural sites on the property.

The other historical feature on the property is a series of cement wall-like structures, remnants of Kahului Railroad’s rock crusher, which operated from 1921 to 1946, when the facility was damaged by a tsunami. Clement said a fence will be put up around the structure for safety reasons and to protect the site.

The peace park will be near homes and businesses on Lower Main Street and Waiehu Beach Road as well as Puuone Tract. Clement said that the small park in the urban neighborhood provides opportunities for nearby families to have a picnic or to hike with great views — which will be significantly improved after the invasive plants are removed.

The land trust has raised $200,000 from donors for the project, but Clement emphasized that most of the funds would be used for upkeep of the property.

"We are hoping that much of those funds will help with the permanent stewardship and maintenance of that property," he said.

The Freeman Foundation provided the lead gift but other major donors included Mary Sanford, Paul Mizoguchi, David and Judith Fukuda, Hiroshi Arisumi, Alexander & Baldwin Kokua Giving program, and Matson.

Requests for proposals have been released. The land trust is hoping the selected contractor will be able to finish the project by the end of the year. "We are looking to quickly deliver an attractive park to the community," said Clement.

"We wanted to ensure the land would be properly protected and also be a place of natural beauty," said Moto in a phone interview. "We are very excited about preserving the open space as a peace park to all veterans."

He noted that at one time there were plans to develop the area as a residential lots.

The center purchased the land from Alexander & Baldwin in 2010 as part of a building permit for the new education center, Moto said. He did not disclose the price but noted that it was way below market value.

The Nisei Veterans Memorial Center honors the second-generation Japanese-American soldiers who distinguished themselves during World War II and perpetuates their legacy through education and service. Formed as a nonprofit corporation in 1991, the center has an exhibit room and archive of the veterans documents and artifacts. The site also includes the Kansha Preschool and Maui Adult Day Care Center’s Ocean View facility.

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