Come On Over To Bill’s Place
Bill Porter, founder of E*Trade, opens his hundreds of Kilauea acres to the public, including a hiking trail, skate park and miniature golf course that doubles as a botanical garden
Bill Porter is a visionary. Luckily for the island, the founder of the online stock-trading company E*Trade continues to bring his idealistic ambitions to fruition. The Princeville resident is the reason behind Anaina Hou Community Park, as well as Wai Koa Loop Trail and Wai Koa Plantation.
Porter’s creativity and generosity are why the Kilauea community is now host to amenities such as miniature golf, skateboard ramps, a 5-mile hiking path and twice-weekly farmers markets.
“This is for everyone,” says his wife, Joan. “There is no reason for it not to be.”
The Porters moved to the island from California in 2004. After purchasing land in Kilauea in 2006, they began envisioning how they could use it to benefit the community. Three years of planning and numerous meetings with the Kilauea Neighborhood Association later, Anaina Hou, “a new gathering,” was born.
By 2009, construction on phase one of the project began. Now, residents and visitors have access to an 18-hole miniature golf course that winds through botanical gardens that share the vegetative history of the Hawaiian Islands, from native and endemic flora to plants brought by cultures such as Polynesians, Chinese and Japanese.
“I’m really happy with it,” says Porter. “I don’t know of any (mini golf) place in the country that’s better than that one. People love it.”
Anaina Hou Community Park also has a cafÃ© and gift store, farmers markets every Saturday at 9 a.m. and Monday at 4 p.m., as well as two skate ramps and a soon-to-be dog park.
“So much of what we’ve done has just unfolded,” says Joan, regarding the multiple collaborations among members of the community it took to make everything happen.
The next phase of the project is the Kilauea Pavilion, which will consist of two theatres: indoor and outdoor. The indoor theatre, “The Porter Theatre,” will be a state-of-the-art venue designed for various performances such as dance, acting, concerts and movies. The covered outdoor theatre will have adjustable seating and will be a spot for private parties, weddings, hula performances and music.
The pavilion also will have three conference rooms for classes or meetings, as well as a certified kitchen.
The entire project is slated to become a nonprofit, whereby Porter plans to officially donate it to the community in the coming months.
He also opens up his Wai Koa estate in Kilauea (adjacent to Anaina Hou) to the community where people can hike, enjoy nature and walk among some 80,000 Honduran mahogany trees.
Rather than build homes (the land is permitted for residential development), Porter chose not to develop on the some 500-acre plot of land.
“The most outstanding thing about Bill is his straightforwardness,” says Joan. “When he says something, it will happen.”
Porter has always thought outside of the box. When he was just 16 years old, the Colorado native quit high school and joined the Navy.
“That was the thing to do,” he says, regarding the era of World War II. “Everything was devoted to the war effort, so that’s what I did.”
He went on to attend Adams State University in Colorado and earned a bachelor’s degree in mathematics, and later a master’s degree in physics from Kansas State University.
Porter landed several ground-breaking positions, including as a physicist at the National Bureau of Standards, and a job at General Electric working with cutting-edge electro-optic surgical technology.
He is most famous, however, for launching the world-renowned Internet trading company E*Trade in the early 1980s. In fact, his business will be featured at the Smithsonian’s upcoming American Enterprise exhibition, to be opened in 2015 for innovators in the United States. He only recently retired from the company a few years ago. Now, he prefers spending time with his wife and strolling along Wai Koa Loop Trail every afternoon with his three Bernese mountain dogs – Andara, Kona and Pax.
The Porters have four children, 10 grandchildren and one great-grandchild.
One of the most rewarding aspects of Anaina
Hou Community Park for Porter is seeing some “old guy” like him with his 4-year-old grandchild playing miniature golf.
“Bill is an extraordinary and inspiring person,” says Anaina
Hou Community Park president and CEO Cherie Grousset. “He has a great sense of humor and provides thoughtful counsel. I have learned valuable insight and shrewd negotiation from Bill. His concern for education and his dedication to giving back are honest and heartfelt.
“I feel awed by the courage and openness with which Bill and Joan approach life, and I am immeasurably grateful for the opportunity to work with such a dynamic, creative and genuine couple.”
The couple continues to brainstorm and develop new ideas for the community, including funding a new school developed by Anna Olvera called Puukumu, where students spend time online and in the classroom.
“It’s the evolution that is taking place across the country, a different type of teaching rather than the standard classroom kind of thing,” says Porter, who also owns Kaua’i Fresh Farms.
Though the couple has traveled the world, after spending their honeymoon on Kaua’i 28 years ago and visiting several times over the years, they have no regrets about making the Garden Isle their final destination.
“It’s so much nicer here than anywhere else in the world,” says Porter.
And he’s making it even nicer.
Visit anainahou.org for more information.