Local Connection: The future of Kalaupapa

Local Connection: The future of Kalaupapa

By Rick Blangiardi

Kalaupapa is a national jewel and its historical significance cannot be overstated. Now that only six Hansen's disease patients live on the remote area of Molokai, it is time to start thinking about the future when the last patient passes away.

The National Park Service, which took over in 1980 and made Kalaupapa a designated historical area, is doing just that but having public meetings to discuss the future. They are off to a great start. 

There are four options for Kalaupapa, which range from doing nothing at all to having unrestricted access to the park. Right now, the park limits attendance to 100 visitors a day, who travel by mule and then school bus. This should not change if the character of this beautiful area is to remain the same.

The proposal to allow children under 16 to visit the park is also a good one and should be adopted. They should learn that those with leprosy, now known as Hansen's disease, were banished to Kalaupapa from 1866, from the time of King Kamehameha, until 1969.

Before they were sent away to the remote peninsula, they had to leave their children behind and or be forced to send them away if they were born on the settlement.

Opening the park up to those who are most interested in seeing the natural beauty of Kalauapapa while helping as many as possible to understand this underpinnings of this incredible place and the selfless work of Father Damien and Mother Marianne Cope, whose work in Kalaupapa earned them Sainthood status.

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