By Erika Engle, Honolulu Star Advertiser
2/15/13: The latest effort by the Kailua Village Business Improvement District on Hawaii island goes way beyond scraping gum off sidewalks.
KVBID will soon launch "Kona Royal Footsteps," a free app for smartphones and tablets that will provide visitors and kamaaina alike with a wealth of information and historical context.
The app is focused on the seven miles of Alii Drive that includes seven centuries of archaeology, history and cultural traditions, including more than two dozen points of interest, as well as more information about ocean recreation, shoreline access, area accommodations and other topics.
"While we know that visitors to Historic Kailua Village will find the app extremely helpful when planning and then during their stay, we are also excited about the educational value of the Kona Royal Footsteps app for residents and particularly for island students," said KVBID president Eric von Platen Luder (who also is president and owner of Huggo's, a longtime favorite Kona restaurant).
KVBID and volunteers from the Local Byway Committee "invested hundreds of hours developing app content that reveals fascinating information about places all along Alii Drive," he said.
KVBID Executive Director Debbie Baker notes all the people who come to Kona and drive down the oceanfront, 7-mile roadway "and have no clue as to what they're driving by, all the important sites, right off the shoulder of the road," she said.
Not just visitors, either.
"I quizzed my nephew the other day," she said. "Do you know where (King) Kamehameha learned to surf?" He didn't. "Do you know where the Morey boogie board was invented?" Nuh-uh.
Soon there'll be an app for that.
"It's more than an app; it's more of an interpretive experience via an app," she said. "The content is incredible."
For surfers like her nephew, the app includes all the common, surfer-used names for popular breaks, but great efforts were made to "reattach the traditional Hawaiian names" to the breaks, Baker said.
All those involved are most excited about the educational aspects of the app, which they believe will be a wonderful tool for teachers, Baker said.
It is quite common for Hawaii fourth-graders to travel to Hawaii island for Hawaiiana curriculum, and teachers as well as smartphone-equipped students would have a wealth of information, historical images and cultural information quite literally at their fingertips.
The app was the "egg" that grew from the KVBID's efforts to become a "Hawaii Scenic Byway" a while back, which involved amassing information and images about historical and archaeologically important sites. More information was gathered while the byway's corridor management plan was developed.
Discussions at the committee and board levels centered on how best to disseminate "all this fascinating information," and traditional means, such as brochures and interpretive signs, "would require a large amount of money," noted Baker.
"So, we were trying to be a little greener and a little smarter with how we share it, and to try to share it beyond where we are, just here," she said.
"We decided on an app."
KVBID credits efforts of the Local Byway Committee, a grant from the Hawaii Tourism Authority, and the County of Hawaii County Product Enrichment Program, which also is HTA-funded.
Incorporated in 2007, KVBID is only the third Business Improvement District in the state, behind the Waikiki Business Improvement District Association (2000) and the Fort Street Mall Business District Association (2002).
In addition to the educational opportunities, all those involved are stoked to share "pride of place and helping to share the stories with those people who live here and who visit. … It keeps the stories alive," Baker said.
Searchable as "Kona Royal Guide," or "Kona Royal Footsteps," the app will be released before the end of the month in both the Apple and Android stores and will be a free download.
For more information, see www.historickailuavillage.com
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