Astronomers say the best place on earth to practice their science is on Hawai‘i Island: Mauna Kea. The mountain is also important to cultural practitioners, hunters, hikers, and sightseers. The Mayor of Hawai'i County has been sharing his vision for the mountain. HPR contributing reporter Sherry Bracken has more.
Decisions on the future of Mauna Kea, including the Thirty Meter Telescope and other observatories, are in the hands of the courts, the State Department of Land and Natural Resources, and University of Hawai'i. Hawai'i County Mayor Harry Kim has been sharing a vision he says can incorporate all interests.
“I met with the governor, the attorney general, almost all of the observatories, I met with people funding TMT. I believe TMT is an opportunity for Hawai'i Island, good for mankind, good for Hawai'i, good for students, good for the economy, “
Kim says the mountain should be a world park.
“Mauna Kea can be and should be a monument for the world, for mankind’s quest of knowledge to make us a better people. Because of the Hawaiian being the first people of the nation of Hawaii, from that they developed into the cosmopolitan race of Hawaii, meaning people belonging to the world. This whole mountain symbolizes all those things.”
Mayor Kim acknowledges many stakeholders need to buy into his vision. Kalani Flores is a faculty member at Palamanui Community College. He and his wife, Pua Case, have spoken against Thirty Meter Telescope since 2010.
“The core of his vision is worthy, having Mauna Kea designated as a symbol of world peace, cosmopolitan, belonging to all the world. Before you can have that you have to resolve the conflicts. We don’t believe the vision should be or will be inclusive of Thirty Meter Telescope.”
Doug Simons is an astronomer and head of Canada-France Hawai'i Telescope as well as an avid outdoorsman and conservationist. He has heard Kim express his vision several times.
“It felt like a big umbrella in which a variety of interests on the mountain could find a safe space. The melding of science, culture, and the environment. All of those could fit under the canopy of a park.”
The big question now is how Mayor Kim’s vision might become reality and what comes next.