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Monday, January 15, 2024

Kaʻū News Briefs Jan. 15, 2024

Ric Elhard and Rose Herrera who recently sold Kula Kai Caverns, a show cave in Ocean View. Photo by Peter and Annie Bosted

KULA KAI CAVERNS HAS BEEN SOLD by owners Ric Elhard and Rose Herrera, who first created 
their Ocean View show cave tours in 2002 and further developed their program throughout the years.
    The history of Kula Kai Caverns has been shaped by Elhard and Herrera. In 1990 the couple left California. Upon learning that Ocean View is rich in lava tubes, they decided to make it their new home. It was the sight of a large and inviting cave entrance that was the deciding factor in choosing the three-acres in the Kula Kai community of Ocean View. Today the entrance is artfully adorned with trees, shrubs and signage.
    When they first arrived there were only a few homes in the Kula Kai community. For the first three years their own home was a large army tent that flapped incessantly in the prevailing tradewinds. There was no power and no phone service. They had to drive over unpaved roads to the single store to use a pay
    Elhard is an accomplished woodworker, home builder and craftsman, while Herrera is a sought-after house painter and color consultant. By combining their crafts and design sense, they built their home in stages – first a studio, then an 'Ohana, and finally the main house which included a circular bedroom made from a salvaged redwood water tank. In 2014, their beautiful home was featured in the At Home  supplement of  West Hawai'i Today.
    Developing the huge cave for tours was a massive undertaking. With no prior experience it was a case of learning on the job. Stairs were needed to get down into the cave.

When not growing their show cave business, Ric Elhard and Rose Herrera explore caves on
the Big Island, such as this one on Hualalai near Kona. Photo by Peter and Annie Bosted
    They built trails and brought in countless buckets of cinder in to smooth over the gaps in the rocky floor. They built a seating area in the cave. A thatched hut for visitors to congregate prior to the tours was erected. Ocean View residents were hired and trained as cave guides, and over time the tours became more informative.
    In response to demand, they introduced a Wild Tour. It allows visitors to don helmets and lights, leave the trails and go spelunking to experience the cave in its wild state, including belly crawling through a low section of passage. The rave reviews attest to the cave's huge popularity. Tripadvisor gives the cave 5 stars, and Yelp gives it a rating of 4.9 out of five.
    Elhard and Herrera have welcomed cavers, film makers and cave scientists from all over the country – and the world – to their home and cave property. In the early 2000's enthusiastic cave surveyors came in large groups – particularly in the winter months - and surveyed what was found to be one of the largest cave systems on the island – the Kanohina system. The 750-year-old lava flow hosts a cave system with about 66 miles of known passages underlying the community, from high in HOVE to well below the Kula Kai subdivision. Many of these explorers built or bought homes in Ocean View, while others return year after year for caving vacations.
    With Elhard and Herrera's encouragement, scientists have made pilgrimages to Kula Kai Caverns to further their studies of mineralogy, microbiology, etymology, geology, archeology, and wind flow patterns, to name a few of the topics.
    In 2016, Kula Kai was the hub for the International Symposium of Volcanospeleology. Eighty lava tube cave enthusiasts from all over the world converged on Ocean View for a week-long event that included talks and presentations, field trips, an After Dark in the Park presentation and social gatherings. The army tent that was once Elhard's and Herrera's home was erected outside the cave so that the visitors would have a place to congregate.
Reservations to explore Kula Kai Caverns can be made at www.kulakaicaverns.com

    Elhard and Herrera see their role as the owners of a show cave business as an entrée into a world of opportunities that they may never have known, but for being stewards of Kula Kai Caverns. They have traveled to caves as far afield as Iceland and the Galapagos in Ecuador and met a variety of interesting people from all walks of life. Elhard has taken leadership roles as varied as drafting legislation to conserve caves to heading a local caving club, editing a caving newsletter and co-founding the Cave Conservancy of Hawai'i.
    "It's been a wild ride." Elhard told The Ka'u Calendar, "and a terrific journey. We've been committed to looking after this amazing cave for over 30 years. Now it's somebody else's turn. We've done our bit. We'll be moving on with our heads full of cherished memories and our hearts content with our accomplishments."
    Many of the cave guides whom Elhard has trained have guided visitors for close to a decade and will stay in their jobs for a seamless transition to the next generation of stewards of Kula Kai Caverns.

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Flights in and out of Kona Airport stopped on Monday afternoon, due to runway cracks. Photo from Department of Transportation

UPDATE: ELLISON ONIZUKA KONA INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT RUNWAY CLOSED 4:20 P.M. MONDAY TO 6 A.M. TUESDAY due to cracks in the pavement. The cracks developed during runway repairs and were exacerbated by recent heavy rains. The state Department of Transportation shut down all the runway Monday afternoon and worked overnight to repair it.
    Monday, DOT announced that it is determining the length of safe runway tarmac that was still available and the length needed for each type of plane scheduled to land there. However, all flights were delayed, diverted or canceled during the closure. 
     Some flights were rerouted to Hilo and Honolulu. The issue involved international, interisland and U.S. incoming flights.
    According to maps and data at https://airports.hawaii.gov/koa/flights/, Monday evening's United flight to Kona from LA was headed to Hilo. The website also showed the plane going to Honolulu, with a possible flight on Tuesday to Hawai'i Island, possibly into Kona.
    A Southwest Airline flight Monday evening from Kona to Honolulu was cancelled. An Alaska Airlines flight from Kona to Seattle was cancelled. A Delta Airlines flight to Los Angeles was delayed as was the American Airlines flight to Phoenix. Other flights were also listed as cancelled and delayed.

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Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. speaking during Civil Rights Week at University of Hawaiʻi in 1964. 
Photo from University of Hawaiʻi News
MARTIN LUTHER KING, JR. HOLIDAY on Monday drew comments from Hawai'i Senator Sen. Brian Schatz: "In a visit to Hawai‘i in 1959, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. hailed our state as a 'noble example' of progress 'in the area of racial harmony and racial justice.' There’s no better way to honor his legacy than to uphold and advance the ideals of 
freedom and equality that he fought for."
    Sen. Mazie Hirono said, "Anyone can achieve greatness when the seed of motivation is planted in a source of love, not hate. As the far-right spreads chaos and divisiveness, let us work together to uphold democracy and pursue the equitable future Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. fought for."
Woodley White teaches free 'ukulele
lessons starting Wednesday.
    Kaʻū's Congresswoman Jill Tokuda said, "Never have the words of Dr. King rung more true. While we celebrate and honor his legacy today, more importantly, may we live and act as he would each and every day." She posted MLK's quote: "Darkness cannot drive out darkness, only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that."

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FREE 'UKULELE CLASSES for beginners and intermediate players will resume at the United Methodist Church in  Nāʻālehu this Wednesday, Jan. 17 at 2:30 p.m., taught by guitar maker and musician Woodley White.

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The Kaʻū Calendar newspaper, 5,000 in the mail.
2,500 on the streets.