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The Conversation

Kalaupapa plans for a possible future without patients for the first time

Kalaupapa NPS St Francis Church
National Park Service
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St. Francis Church at Kalaupapa National Historical Park

The National Park Service has released a new plan to guide operations at Kalaupapa National Historical Park for at least the next 15 years.

Superintendent Nancy Holman says the new plan accounts for the possibility that after decades of care for those with Hansen’s disease, or leprosy, Kalaupapa may soon no longer have any living patients.

Thousands of people with Hansen’s disease, or leprosy, were sent to Kalaupapa, starting in 1866. Separated from loved ones and exiled to the settlement, the patient count has dwindled to a total of nine: five on Molokaʻi and four said to be on Oʻahu.

"What do we visualize as a collective group for what this place will look like in the next five to 20 years here?" she said. "I think what makes this plan particularly interesting as a vision document is it's predicted in that timeframe that those last nine surviving patients may pass on."

"So that future transition when the patients are no longer alive, and Department of Health is no longer on site as an active managing partner, what does the space become as far as how it's maintained into the future?" she told The Conversation. "I think there’s a whole range of possibilities in that plan. I think there’s a lot of range for future engagement and discovery and partnership with the people of Hawaiʻi."

Holman said the plan is just the beginning in the conversation about Kalaupapa's future.

The park service is in the process of revamping its website and expects to have the plan and more information about the outreach process to be included so more people can discuss the future of Kalauapapa.

You can find more details about the Kalaupapa management plan at nps.gov or read it below.

This interview aired on The Conversation on Feb. 9, 2022. The Conversation airs weekdays at 11 a.m. on HPR-1.

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