KPPS was founded in July 1986 by citizens who were concerned that the government was not caring for and managing the Park in compliance with the terms of the Trust that had established. In fact, it was the founding members of KPPS who had determined through comprehensive research that Kapiolani Park is not owned by the government directly, but was created in 1896 as a Public Charitable Trust, approved by the Legislature of the Republic of Hawaii. (Click here for a history of control of the Park.)
The Trust document, Territorial laws, and State laws specified that Kapiolani Park be a free public park and recreation ground forever, and that the Trust lands could not be leased, sold, or used for large-scale commercial ventures. In 1913 the City and County of Honolulu succeeded the original Trustees, the Kapiolani Park Commission, in managing the Park. City Council members are now the Park Trustees.
KPPS made history early on when it filed a lawsuit against the City and County, which was on the verge of leasing a parcel of land at the Zoo for a Burger King restaurant. In a landmark victory, the Hawaii Supreme Court ruled in 1988 that Kapiolani Park was indeed a creature of the Trust, that the City and County was bound by the Trust terms which prohibited a commercial lease. Also, the Supreme Court gave the Society a significant watchdog role over Park management.
Since then, KPPS has added to its accomplishments in ensuring that Kapiolani Park remain a free and open park and recreation ground. One example: KPPS was in the forefront of the successful fight to prevent the State and City from taking Trust lands including the Zoo, Waikiki Shell, Bandstand, and open recreational spaces for the new convention center.
For another example, The Society facilitated the mid-1990s land exchange in which the State was given ownership of the Waikiki-Kapahulu Fire Station land that had belonged to the Trust in return for adding to the Trust the Waikiki War Memorial Park, the land from the Aquarium to The New Otani Kaimana Beach Hotel.
In 1996, KPPS deeded a 40-foot strip of land, corresponding to an extension of Leahi Avenue from Noela Street to Poni Moi Road, to the City and County. The deed specified that the land, which had been given to the Society by the Lunalilo Estate, was to be preserved and maintained forever as open space for passive park use and quiet enjoyment, with preservation of any portion of the Papaenaena Heiau site located thereon.
More recently, KPPS prevented the City from expanding the Archery Range, which borders the former Lunalilo Estate strip, with a large practice hall for Shinto/Zen archery to be used by a special interest group. KPPS persuaded the City and the Zen archers to settle for repair and minor enlargement of the existing platform and target house, and to build the Zen archery tournament structure in a new regional park in Central Oahu.
In 2002 the Society published Kapiolani Park a History, a handsome coffee table book that combines a readable scholarly history of the Park by Dr. Robert Weyeneth, Professor of History at the University of South Carolina, with sidebars on Park features and events and photographs old and new added by MacKinnon Simpson, Hawaii historian.
Several times during the next year KGMB TV ran an hour-long documentary, Kapiolani Park, that was based on our book and included interviews with several KPPS directors. The show was produced and directed by Phil Arnone, written by Robert Pennybacker, and narrated by Elizabeth Lindsey Buyers. It will be shown again from time to time.
KPPS is acting to keep restraints on the Zoo and Shell, long-standing commercial or admission-charging Park occupants, whose current operations and levels of activity have court approval. Expansions would exceed court-approved levels, but the pressures on the City to expand the present uses seem constant.
The Society is currently working to have the Park Trustees (the City Council members) deal with the proliferation of craft fairs in the Park to the point where that land is now unavailable for other users, and the monopolization of art sales at the Zoo Fence by the same small group of exhibitors. The Society's attorneys have submitted detailed legal position letters to the Attorney General's office as the craft fair issue moves forward.
The Society would like to see reasonable limits placed on commercial activities on Trust lands.
KPPS is also actively reviewing the Proposed Kapiolani Park Master Plan and meeting with the plan consultant, City officials, and various community groups to help shape the Master Plan and the future direction taken by the City with regards to this beloved Park.