By Sonia Isotov
After a traditional Hawaiian blessing of the building and comments from distinguished guests, Senator Daniel K. Inouye and dignitaries untied the maile lei to initiate the opening of the new headquarters and visitor center at Keālia Pond National Wildlife Refuge on Maui.
The 7,500 square-foot building replaces a small 672 square-foot trailer the refuge staff previously occupied. The event included a Hawaiian blessing by Kimokeo Kapahulehua and musical entertainment by Ron Kuala‘au. Approximately 115 invitees participated in the grand opening celebration.
“We celebrate today the dedication of the Keālia Pond National Wildlife Refuge headquarters and visitor center, which will significantly expand opportunities for visitors, including school groups, to learn about and enjoy the native wildlife in and around Keālia Pond,” said Senator Inouye.
“Built with economic stimulus funds, this shovel-ready project provided needed jobs on Maui. From construction to conservation, many working hands have contributed to today’s success.”
Construction of the complex headquarters and visitor center was supported by a $4.9 million grant as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA). The project was built by Bodell Construction and subcontracted full work crews from 27 contractors.
“Maui’s residents as well as visitors from other islands, the mainland, and other countries, will now have an enhanced experience when they visit the Refuge. This facility was badly needed and I’m glad the Recovery Act funding provided by the previous Congress has been able to make this project a reality,” said Congresswoman Mazie Hirono, in a written statement.
The facility includes a 1,358-square foot lobby and exhibit hall, 1,043-square foot multipurpose room, eight offices, a small conference room, and other workrooms. The energy-efficient building meets Silver LEED standards, one of only a few such projects in Hawaii.
“This is a big step forward for us to better serve our visitors and volunteers,” said Glynnis Nakai, project leader for the Maui National Wildlife Refuge Complex. “We look forward to expanding our visitor, environmental education, and volunteer programs with this new facility. The best part is that the facility will in the long run benefit the native birds and plants that we are here to protect.”
More than 10,000 people visit the refuge each year to engage in various wildlife-oriented activities, including bird watching, photography, environmental education and interpretation, habitat restoration projects to remove invasive species, and outplanting with Hawaii’s native vegetation.
Located on the south-central coast of Maui, the Refuge is accessible from all directions. The entrance road to the refuge, located at milepost 6 on Mokulele Highway (Highway 311) and is open to the public Monday through Friday (excluding Federal holidays), 7:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.