Leahi, or the Diamond Head Crater, is one of Hawaii’s more heavily visited destinations.
The state formally launched a public-private partnership Tuesday to educate visitors about the iconic landmark and to raise money for Hawaii parks.
With the untying of Maile Lei, the Diamond Head interpretive kiosk and gift shop officially opened. The shop has been operating already, but now it has been updated and is managed by Pacific Historic Parks, the same nonprofit that provides services at the USS Arizona Memorial.
Pacific Historic Parks signed a three-year lease agreement with the state to provide information on Leahi and offer visitors a variety of items to take home.
“I think even with the Pearl Harbor Visitor Center, people want to bring home a little bit of their experience,” said Gene Caliwag, president and CEO of Pacific Historic Parks. “Our job is to make sure we provide the best possible products so they do have the products that do represent their visit so they can remember and honor the sites they visited in Hawaii.”
With thousands of visitors making the trek up Diamond Head each year, William Aila, the chairman of the Department of Land and Natural Resources, said the partnership offers a chance to make sure Leahi is celebrated and increase revenue for all state parks.
“They’re averaging, in this little kiosk, almost $2,000 a day. So, that to me says there’s an opportunity for a much larger, albeit proper visitor center here,” Aila said. “As you can see, there’s not enough parking. We have to stop taxis outside so the demand to experience and be part of this place is growing.”
The goal is to seek additional partnerships or legislative appropriations to build a bigger, better visitor center.
Aila said the money is need. In 1993, the state parks budget was about $8 million. In 2014, the budget is still about $8 million and there are more facilities.