New specialty license plates benefit Haleakala, Hawaii Volcanoes national parks

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KAILUA-KONA — Brightly colored and uniquely designed license plates featuring Hawaii Volcanoes National Park and Haleakala National Park hit the Big Island on Tuesday.


KAILUA-KONA — Brightly colored and uniquely designed license plates featuring Hawaii Volcanoes National Park and Haleakala National Park hit the Big Island on Tuesday.

The release of Hawaii’s first true specialty plates also marked the start of a new century for the Maui and Big Island parks, HVNP Superintendent Cindy Orlando told West Hawaii Today shortly after picking up her own plates.

“Today (Tuesday), was our 101st birthday — what a better way to enter the next century,” she said, urging residents to show their pride and support for their national parks by switching out their old plates at Hawaii County Vehicle Registration and Licensing offices.

Both plates are emblazoned with volcanic views, rare native species and the parks’ establishment date, 1916. The Hawaii Volcanoes National Park plate features the World Heritage Site’s most iconic image, Kilauea Volcano erupting, shooting lava into the sky, in 1983, while the Haleakala National Park (HNP) plate showcases Hawaii’s state bird, the nene, rare silversword and gorgeous sunrise.

Selecting the imagery, wasn’t an easy task, Orlando said. Besides there being so many options to chose from, there was also legal requirements and limited space.

“It was really difficult because there’s so many attributes that make both parks so significant and so uniquely Hawaiian,” she said. “But when we thought about a license plate, I’m like, ‘OK what is the iconic image that everybody will relate to?’ and it’s because of the volcano that we have these amazing plants and animals found nowhere else in the world and a host culture that survived on this volcano.”

In addition to bringing awareness to two of the oldest national parks, the specialty plates also help raise funds to support projects. Managing the funds will be the Hawaii Pacific Parks Association, a nonprofit partner that supports park service.

From each plate, which costs $35.50 total, $18 is earmarked for Haleakala and Hawaii Volcanoes resource protection and education projects, such as cultural, endangered species, forest restoration, and invasive species programs the park offers the community.

“Those programs are for our keiki and moopuna (grandchildren), they are our future stewards of our national park,” Orlando said.

During 2016, more than 1.88 million people visited Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, up 3 percent from 2015.

A collaboration between the two national parks and the nonprofit Hawaii Pacific Parks Association, bringing the specialty plates to vehicles statewide took a couple of years. Orlando said the idea for the commemorative plates came up during planning for the parks’ 2016 centennial celebration, but bringing them to fruition took longer than expected.

They got approval to move ahead in 2015 after the state Legislature passed a measure allowing for the specialty plates. Between then and now, there’s been a host of complexities including perfecting the design, meeting legal specifications, receiving approval from all four county police chiefs, and, ultimately, having the plates produced and ready for consumers to pick up and affix to their vehicle.

“We had hoped (to have the plates out in 2016), but I think we were a little naïve and had no idea of the complexity,” she said.

Design work was donated by Saedene Ota, owner of Sae Design, a Wailuku, Maui,-based company, with Ian Ryan creating the actual images depicted on the plates.

“Knowing that the specialty plates would not only be the first ones for the state of Hawaii, but would also support preservation, restoration, and education projects of the national park areas, made our choice certain. It was an honor to be a part of this initiative to celebrate and protect our islands,” Ota said in a prepared statement.


The HVNP and HNP plates are now available at Hawaii County Vehicle Registration and Licensing offices in Kailua-Kona, Waimea, Hilo and Pahoa. They can be purchased with cash or check only, Orlando said.


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