Haleakalā National Park celebrated its first 100 years in 2016. We share this Centennial anniversary with Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park and the National Park Service itself. Like the National Park Service, the Hawai‘i parks came into being because individuals loved these spectacular scenic areas and wanted to share them with the rest of America and to preserve them for the future.
A Park Is Born
Haleakalā began as a section of Hawai‘i National Park, established on August 1, 1916. The National Park Service was established on August 25, 1916, to conserve national parks for “the enjoyment of future generations.” Hawai‘i park promoters had originally focused on the frequently erupting volcanoes of Hawai‘i Island. Two promoters, Lorrin A. Thurston and volcanologist Dr. Thomas A. Jaggar, worked with Hawai‘i and Washington, D.C., officials to bring about the new park. Thurston had lived on Maui as a child and visited the peak of Haleakalā many times. A newcomer to the islands, Jagger found Haleakalā compelling, saying that “the crater at sunrise is the greatest volcanic spectacle on earth.” Thus, Haleakalā was included as part of Hawai‘i National Park.
Journeys to the Summit
In ancient times, few visited the peak of Haleakalā. This mountaintop is part of wao akua, the realm of the gods, while humans live below in wao kanaka, the realm of man. On this sacred mountaintop, ancient Hawaiian seers studied the stars, kahuna (priests) conducted ceremonies, and stone workers found fine-grained basalt to make stone implements. Sometimes people hiked over the top of the mountain to reach the opposite side, rather than trek along the rugged shoreline. In general, however, the mountain peak was a place to regard with awe from below.
Welcoming the World
The Maui section of the new park received funding as part of federal programs to improve the economy during the 1930’s Great Depression. The first ranger was assigned to the Haleakalā section in 1935 to welcome visitors and supervise preservation efforts. The most important project for sharing the beauty of Haleakalā was the building of a road to the summit. When it opened with a great celebration in 1935, young Maui men working for the Civilian Conservation Corps organized parking for 320 cars filled with excited islanders. Then they went back to their work of constructing trails, hauling materials to carpenters building three cabins on the valley floor, and assisting with early efforts to save the rare ‘āhinahina (silversword) plant.
More than 200 endangered species live in Haleakalā National Park. The two most famous are the Haleakalā ‘āhinahina and the nēnē.
For the Future
Haleakalā National Park continues its century-old stewardship of natural and cultural treasures with the help of partners, kūpuna (elders), volunteers, visitors, and local residents. The park conducts year-round habitat restoration and endangered species protection programs, volunteer projects, education programs, cultural demonstrations, and internships.
Last updated: May 9, 2018