Hard times prompt Parker Ranch changes
By Colin M. Stewart
According to Parker Ranch spokeswoman Diane Quitiquit, the Mana Hale and Puuopelu homes are no longer open to the public Tuesdays through Saturdays, as they once were.
The houses will be available to tour during the Feb. 6 Cherry Blossom Heritage Festival, and there will be 10 dates between now and that time during which the homes will be opened for private groups.
Beyond that, Quitiquit said, what will be done with the properties is "undetermined."
The fate of the artwork, antiques and memorabilia housed in the buildings is also up in the air, she said.
"There are no plans to move any of the Hawaiian artifacts in the Mana Hale house," Quitiquit said. "Although there have been some changes, there hasn't been a long-term decision made. They are still exploring opportunities."
The move is part of an ongoing effort by Parker Ranch to cut costs, following $18 million in operational losses in 2008.
In order to close that gap, last year Parker Ranch offered to sell to an undisclosed buyer 3,509 acres of North Kohala property for a reported $50 million. That sale is expected to close later this year.
Parker Ranch also sold its realty division, Parker Ranch Realty, to Clark Realty Corp.
"Parker Ranch is still exploring opportunities to be able to open the home on a more regular basis. We are all very passionate about the history of Parker Ranch," Quitiquit said. "It's just a great honor to share that with visitors and our community. We ... are going to take steps to try to work with our community."
Quitiquit added that while the home tours are no longer available, the ranch will continue to offer horseback riding tours, ATV tours and hunting excursions. She said there were no plans to close the Parker Ranch store at the site.
Parker Ranch is owned by the Parker Ranch Foundation, which was started in 1992 for the benefit of four local charities: North Hawaii Community Hospital; Hawaii Preparatory Academy; Parker School Trust Corp.; and the Richard Smart Fund of the Hawaii Community Foundation.
Upon his death in 1992, Smart left the Parker Ranch, complete with his art collection, in a trust to support health care, education and "charitable giving" in the Waimea community, according to a Parker Ranch Web site.