East Hawaii News

Mokupapapa Discovery Center Reopens to Public Saturday

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More than a little behind schedule, an educational center showcasing the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands will reopen its doors this week.

Mokupapapa Discovery Center will hold a public opening and reception beginning at 10 a.m. Saturday at the former Koehnen’s building in downtown Hilo.

An early opening for VIPs and media only will be held on Friday.

The facility co-managed by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and state of Hawaii closed the doors in March 2013 on its 4,000-square-foot location several blocks east on Kamehameha Avenue near Café Pesto. At that time, NOAA officials said it would reopen in summer of 2013.

Its new home is five times as large and features new exhibits, artwork and a 3,500-gallon aquarium.

Officials said the discovery center hosted more than 60,000 visitors annually at its modest previous home. It also offered a week-long summer course to 7,000 students each summer.

The Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument, which is also a World Heritage Site, consists of the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands and surrounding marine environment.

NOAA officials said since most people will never have the opportunity to visit these remote islands, the center was conceived to “bring the place to the people” and spur greater public awareness of the region and ocean conservation issues more generally.

Declared a marine national monument by presidential proclamation in 2006, Papahanaumokuakea encompasses 139,797 square miles of the Pacific, an area larger than all of the nation’s national parks combined.

It contains extensive coral reefs home to more than 7,000 marine species, a quarter of which are found only in the Hawaiian archipelago.


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