Army commits to provide additional cultural access at Makua

| August 14, 2018 | 0 Comments

U.S. Army Garrison Hawaii
Public Affairs

Allowing public access on an active training range may seem unusual, but at Hawaii’s Makua Military Reservation the Army has been doing it for over 15 years.

The 4,200 acre reservation contains over 100 archaeological and historic properties, many significant to Native Hawaiians.

In 2001, the Army and Malama Makua, a local cultural organization, agreed to the accesses.  However, in 2015 the Makua Military Reservation was closed to all training and cultural access after two grass-cutting contractors were injured when they inadvertently set-off an unexploded ordnance, raising concerns about safety in the valley.  Malama Makua sued the Army in 2016 to renew their access.

In an agreement with Malama Makua approved in federal court Aug. 3, 2018, the Army welcomed the opportunity to provide additional cultural access. The new agreement explores the possibility of opening two additional sites now located in an inaccessible area.

Viewing petroglyphs on rock at Makua Military Reservation during Malama Makua cultural access visit, Aug. 11, 2018.

Viewing petroglyphs on rock at Makua Military Reservation during Malama Makua cultural access visit, Aug. 11, 2018.

The original agreement provides Malama Makua with two cultural access visits a month and two overnight accesses a year, often coinciding with the Hawaiian Makahiki celebration.  The new agreement adds four additional make-up overnight visits over the next two years, one having been completed in June.

As of this April, the Army has now reopened access to 13 archaeological sites, and three ahu (stone structures that serve as a shrine, waymark, altar, etc.) constructed by Malama Makua, and has opened one additional archaeological site not previously accessible.

Makua had been used for live fire and other training events for over 80 years and is known to contain unexploded ordnance.

To resume access to each site and ahu, the Army spent hundreds of hours resurveying each location and its access routes for both surface and subsurface unexploded ordnance, using Army EOD experts and archaeologists.

A certified unexploded ordnance technician must accompany each group visiting Makua, as was done previously, to ensure the safety of all participants.

Visitors gather around ahu during recent Malama Makua cultural access to Makua Military Reservation, Aug. 11, 2018.

Visitors gather around ahu during recent Malama Makua cultural access to Makua Military Reservation, Aug. 11, 2018.

Safety is the Army’s highest priority at Makua.  After closing the reservation following the grass cutting incident, the Army conducted an extensive review of safety measures and procedures.  Revisions were made wherever needed.

Makua is also home to over 45 threatened and endangered plants and animals, some existing nowhere else on earth.  Protection of these rare species, and the cultural sites, has been an ongoing effort since 1993. The Army has 20 biologists, archaeologists, and environmental specialists at Makua spending almost $3,000,000 a year on these efforts.

The Army is working with several Native Hawaiian Organizations, the State Historic Preservation Division, Office of Hawaiian Affairs, and the federal Advisory Council on Historic Preservation to develop a new programmatic agreement to help ensure further efforts to remove unexploded ordnance are done with the least possible disruption to on-going access.

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Category: Community Relations, Native Hawaiian Community Program, News

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