About The Kaʻū Calendar

Ka`u, Hawai`i, United States
A locally owned and run community newspaper (www.kaucalendar.com) distributed in print to all Ka`u District residents of Ocean View, Na`alehu, Pahala, Hawai`i Volcanoes National Park, Volcano Village and Miloli`i on the Big Island of Hawai`i. This blog is where you can catch up on what's happening daily with our news briefs. This blog is provided by The Ka`u Calendar Newspaper (kaucalendar.com), Pahala Plantation Cottages (pahalaplantationcottages.com), Local Productions, Inc. and the Edmund C. Olson Trust.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Ka`u News Briefs March 27, 2012

The contract to operate Volcano House has been awarded to Ortega National Parks and Aqua Hotels and Resorts.
Photo from Hawai`i Volcanoes National Park
VOLCANO HOUSE, its hotel, restaurant and retail operations, will be run by Ortega National Parks, LLC and Aqua Hotels and Resorts, Inc., under an agreement announced yesterday by the National Park Service. The 15-year contract also covers operations at Namakanipaio Campground. The NPS statement says Ortega National Parks, LLC has more than 45 years of hospitality experience and over 16 years’ experience operating concessions within other national parks and monuments including Death Valley, Golden Gate, Bandelier, White Sands, Muir Woods and Carlsbad Caverns.
      The contract calls for the partnership, Hawai`i Volcanoes Lodge Company, LLC, to make renovations to the hotel costing between $2.5 million and $3.5 million. It must also pay the Park Service a minimum franchise fee of six percent “to help maintain facilities and other critical visitor services,” the statement says.
Volcano House has been closed since
January 2010. Photo by Julia Neal
      NPS has spent more than $4 million on fire and safety improvements at Volcano House, including seismic upgrades. Volcano House shut down on Dec. 31, 2009 with the end of the contract held by former concessioner Ken Fujiyama.
      Applicants were evaluated on their re- sponses to questions asked, including how to engage and educate the visiting public on the native Hawaiian culture through interpretive experiences and retail services, including the sale of Native Hawaiian handicrafts and cultural demonstrations. Additional guidelines used to evaluate proposals can be found online at www.nps.gov/commercialservices.

THE VOLCANO PROJECT, an effort led by David Howard Donald and Anne Lee, of Volcano, would have taken Volcano House into operation by a nonprofit organization. Their plan was to make it a culinary and hospitality education institution while serving visitors to the park. They attracted numerous letters of support from county, state and federal elected officials as well as business and Hawaiian cultural leaders and community members. The Volcano Project has manned a table every Sunday for several years at Volcano Farmers Market. Their website says, “The Volcano Project is going forward with our plans to open a world-class hospitality school.” See more at volcanoproject.org.

FEDERAL EDUCATION OFFICIALS could come to Ka`u schools this week, as they plan to visit “zones of school innovation” under the Race to the Top program. The federal Department of Education officials are in Hawai`i to meet with administrators and policymakers, as well as teachers union leader Will Okabe.
      The teachers are yet to settle their labor dispute with the state and are working under a “last, best and final offer” from the administration. The dispute is considered one of the reasons that Hawai`i is on probation for some $75 million in Race to the Top funding.
Hawai`i welcomed Race to the Top officials this week who could visit
schools in Ka`u. Photo from www.americanprogress.org
      Hawai`i and Florida are the only two Race to the Top grant recipients that still have a lot to prove, according to a new report from the Center on American Progress. The Washington, D.C.-based think tank for education policy reports that 10 of the 12 Race to the Top winners are scheduled to continue receiving their grants, but Hawai`i and Florida are “not meeting expectations.” 
The report gives a state-by-state review of educational progress and challenges. Regarding Hawai`i, it says, “If desire is any indication, the state is headed in the right direction. But clearly there are still significant promises to keep — and challenges to address – the months and years ahead.” The entire report, called Race to the Top: What We Have Learned from the States So Far, was released yesterday for reading at www.americanprogress.org/issues/2012/rtt_states.html.
      School officials said they are planning to prove to the Race to the Top overseers that Hawai`i schools are making a lot of progress.

KALAEKILOHANA has opened up reservations to the general public for its Ka`u Coffee Festival event on Saturday, May 5. The $100 a ticket evening at the upscale B&B on South Point Road is called Ka`u Farmers’ Table: A Feast for the Senses and features with dinner by Chef Morgan Star of Mi’s Italian Bistro and an evening of music with Robert Cazimero. The gathering is one of the two new official events of the Ka`u Coffee Festival, which will hold its Ho`olaule`a on Saturday, May 12 and its educational day on Sunday, May 13. Also planned as a new Ka`u Coffee Festival event is a recipe contest, this time for cookies, candies and crackers, at Ka`u Coffee Mill on Wood Valley Road above Pahala on Sunday, May 6. See more at www.kaucoffeefestival.com.

Ranger John Stallman
HAWAI`I VOLCANOES NATIONAL PARK ranger John Stallman discusses the natural history and conservation of Hawai`i’s ancient native palms at After Dark in the Park today at 7 p.m. in Kilauea Visitor Center Auditorium. $2 donations support park programs, and park entrance fees apply. 

PANDANUS WEAVING is the topic tomorrow from 10 a.m. to noon on the Kilauea Visitor Center lanai in Hawai`i Volcanoes National Park. Participants learn how to weave bracelets from the leaves of the hala tree. The event is free, and park entrance fees apply.

THE FINAL WHALE COUNT for 2012 takes place Saturday from 8 a.m. to 12:15 p.m. at various locations throughout Ka`u. Volunteers count humpback whales and document their behavior. Sign up at http://hawaiihumpbackwhale.noaa.gov.

THY WORD MINISTRIES KA`U holds its ninth annual Easter Family Fun Day on Saturday from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Na`alehu Hongwanji Hall. The event includes a craft fair, free lunch, music, hula and an Easter egg hunt for all ages. For more information, call 936-9114.