Move would rename park after Kahele

  • Mauna Kea Recreation area is a popular stop for travelers going across Saddle Road. (Laura Ruminski/West Hawaii Today)

The state Land Board will consider Friday renaming Mauna Kea Recreation area after the late-Sen. Gil Kahele.

The park, which includes cabins and a playground, is located off the Daniel K. Inouye Highway. The former state park is managed by Hawaii County but the state remains the landowner for the time being.

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Under the proposal, the park would be renamed the Gilbert Kahele Recreation Area. Gil Kahele died in 2016 at age 73.

A concurrent resolution requesting the park be named after the late senator passed the state Senate last year but didn’t make it to a floor vote in the House.

The Land Board approved transferring management of the 20-acre park, which was in disrepair, to the county in 2014.

The board’s agenda packet says Gil Kahele was “instrumental” in getting management transferred to the county, which has subsequently improved it, including adding the playground and fixing the cabins.

Gil Kahele worked in civil service at the nearby Pohakuloa Training Area for several decades before retiring, and took an interest in the recreation area, said his son, Sen. Kai Kahele, who was appointed to his seat. He said his father was upset that it was in disrepair, and particularly when the United States flag stopped flying there.

“My dad had a special, I guess you could say relationship, with Maunakea and that area,” Kai Kahele said.

“It really saddened him to go to that park and see it in such bad shape.”

Gil Kahele worked with then-Gov. Neil Abercrombie, former Mayor Billy Kenoi and other legislators to get management of the park transferred to the county, Kai Kahele said. He said his father would be honored to have it named after him.

Maurice Messina, deputy county parks director, said the county has no objections to the name change.

He said efforts remain ongoing to formally transfer the land to the county.

Additionally, the Land Board will consider granting approval for the construction of a World War II memorial at the Wailoa River State Recreation Area in Hilo. The memorial would be placed near the Vietnam War memorial.

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The project is funded by the Hawaiian Chinese Multicultural Museum &Archives.

Email Tom Callis at tcallis@hawaiitribune-herald.com.

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