Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

The National Park Service is currently accepting public comment on its draft study, which identifies the Honouliuli internment camp site for possible inclusion as a national historic site or a national historic monument within the National Park System.

The study, which was authorized by Congress in 2009, evaluated 17 Hawaii sites to determine whether they met the four criteria for inclusion in the park system — 1) possessing nationally significant natural or cultural resources; 2) being suitable for addition into the system; 2) being a feasible addition to the system; and 4) requiring direct NPS management instead of alternative protection by other public agencies or the private sector.

The study is also serving as an environmental impact assessment to ensure that natural resources, vegetation and wildlife are protected.

The 17 sites evaluated were the Honouliuli Internment Camp, Sand Island Detention Camp, the U.S. Immigration Station, Honolulu Police Department and Honolulu Military Police Station (Yokohama Specie Bank) on O‘ahu; Waimea Jail, Wailua Jail, Kalaheo Stockade, Lihue Plantation Gymnasium and Kaua‘i County Courthouse on Kaua‘i; Kaunakakai Jail on Moloka‘i; Maui County Jail and Haiku Camp on Maui; Lana‘i City Jail on Lana‘i; and the Kilauea Military Camp, Hilo Independent Japanese Language School and Waiakea Prison on Hawai‘i island.

Of the 17 sites, Honouliuli Internment Camp and the U.S. Immigration Station on the island of O‘ahu were deemed to be nationally significant for their central role as internment sites in Hawai‘i during World War II. These two sites met the NPS criteria for national significance. The study found that both locations “depict a distinct and important aspect of American history associated with civil liberties in times of conflict that is not adequately represented or protected elsewhere.”

However, only Honouliuli was found to be a feasible addition to the National Park System, which requires that the site be accessible to the public. The U.S. Immigration Station on Ala Moana Boulevard was deemed unfeasible because the building is currently being used by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and the Hawaii Department of Health.

The study found that there is a need for NPS management of Honouliuli and offered two alternatives. “Alternative A” is “Continuation of Management,” or a “no action” alternative, meaning organizations and entities such as the Japanese Cultural Center of Hawai‘i and the University of Hawai‘i, which have been researching the area and educating the public about Honouliuli, will continue to do so in partnership with the existing landowners, Monsanto Company and the University of Hawai‘i. The NPS could continue to provide technical assistance through grant programs.

“Alternative B” would make Honouliuli a part of the National Park System. Congress would have to establish Honouliuli as a “National Historic Site” and would determine whether it will be a “national historic site” or a “national monument.” The area would be preserved and maintained by the NPS, but could still receive assistance from the JCCH and UH and their respective programs relating to the Hawai‘i internment experience.

If Honouliuli becomes a national historic unit, annual operating expenses could cost up to $750,000. The boundaries of the proposed Ho-nouliuli National Historic Site, or Monument, would cover approximately 440 acres, including 123 acres of the Honouliuli internment camp site and an adjacent overlook parcel that would be donated to the NPS by the Monsanto Company, 31 acres of Monsanto-owned conservation easements and 285 acres owned by the University of Hawai‘i – West O‘ahu.

Sites that are potentially eligible for listing on the National Register of Historic Places are the Kaua‘i County Courthouse; Kilauea Military Camp; Maui County Jail, Courthouse and Police Station; Yokohama Specie Bank and the Läna‘i City Jail and Courthouse.

The remaining sites either require more research to determine their potential as a significant site or have no visible structures remaining or opportunity for visitor interpretation.

About 70 people attended the May 29 public forum at the JCCH. It was the third of eight public forums being held in Hawai‘i. Representatives from the NPS — Paul DePrey, superintendent of the World War II Valor in the Pacific National Monument; landscape architects Anna Tamura of Seattle, Wash., and Barbara Butler Baunsgard of San Francisco, Calif.; and M. Melia Lane-Kamahele, manager of the NPS Pacific Islands Office, summarized the study.

Tamura noted that the Hawai‘i internment experience is unique because a list of individuals deemed to be possible threats to the security of the Islands had been compiled prior to the December 1941 bombing of Pearl Harbor. They included leaders in the Japanese American community. On the Mainland, however, the entire Japanese American community on the West Coast was interned. In 1941, people of Japanese ancestry made up approximately 37 percent of Hawaii’s population. Interning all of them would have crippled Hawai‘i economically, Tamura said. “If you were going to impact a community, who would you choose?” she asked.

During the question-and-answer session and breakout groups that followed, NPS facilitators sought answers to four questions — the public’s thoughts on the study; their preference for Alternative “A” or “B”; proposals or alternatives to the study, including changes; and other comments.

Most of the people in the group facilitated by DePrey felt that Honouliuli should be considered a national historic site, or monument, and preferred “Alternative B,” giving the NPS responsibility for maintaining and preserving the site.

Group members shared their vision if Hono-uliuli is approved as a national historic site. They noted that the cane haul roads leading into the gulch are in need of repair or repaving. However, several attendees said the roads should be left as they are now to retain the surroundings, as they existed for the Honouliuli prisoners. Others questioned whether maintenance of the area, such as repaving roads or adding visitor centers, would destroy the integrity of the original site.

In order to keep Honouliuli intact, some suggested that the visitor center be constructed away from Honouliuli Gulch, perhaps at the overlook area. Other items mentioned as “must-haves” included handicap accessibility, bathroom and rest facilities, and an education center or wayside placards.

Attendees were disappointed to learn that the U.S. Immigration Station was disqualified as a national historic site, or monument, emphasizing that the station was an important site because all Hawai‘i internees were directed to and processed at the site before being assigned to a camp, whether in Hawai‘i or on the Mainland. One provision in “Alternative B” is that when the Immigration Station tenants vacate the building, it could be reconsidered a national historic site or used as an educational center that would then direct visitors to Honouliuli and the other detention sites.

“This process is not over, and in many ways, it’s simply beginning,” said DePrey. “Your involvement is critical to seeing that is continues on into the future.”

The final public meeting will be a virtual/online meeting set for Tuesday, June 17, from 10 a.m.-noon (Hawai‘i time), 1-3 p.m. (Pacific Time) and 4-6 p.m. (Eastern Time). Virtual meeting web access information and comment questions can be found at Final comments must be received by July 15.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here