KAHOOLAWE (HawaiiNewsNow) - The U.S. Navy transferred control of Kahoolawe to the state a decade ago. The agency now in charge of restoring the island used by the military for target practice has faced many challenges, including shrinking funds and a critical audit.
"The last 10 years, we've been learning how to heal an island," said Michael Nahoopii, executive director of the Kahoolawe Island Reserve Commission. "We're no longer stopping the bombing, we're about restoring a nation."
"They scrutinized everyone who was there and what we did the whole time, so the significance has been to open up community access to the island on a wider basis," explained Davianna McGregor of Protect Kahoolawe Ohana.
More than 1,500 volunteers now journey to the island each year. They replant native vegetation on the devastated landscape and clear out other challenges.
"We have trash from the ocean that is going on our beaches. We have alien species that are blowing across on the wind. We have tumbleweed, fireweed," said Nahoopii.
The $44-million trust fund for the island's rehabilitation will run out by 2016. A state audit also found that the Kahoolawe Island Reserve Commission lacked a comprehensive and measurable restoration project. The agency is working to secure regular funding from the state while developing a strategic plan called "Kahoolawe: 2026."
"It will set down a timetable and major goals that not only us as a state agency could be able to follow, but a broader interest with all people of Hawaii," Nahoopii said.
"The more we do to the island to help it heal, the more it reveals of itself. The island has revealed, in the last 10 years, so much more of its richness," said McGregor.
After half a century as a military bombing range, the hope is that Kahoolawe will become a sacred place for sovereignty in the years ahead.