Ka Iwi shoreline must be done right
The haggling is over. The state and landowner Kamehameha Schools have quietly reached agreement on a price for the lands that will form the Ka Iwi shoreline.
That's all to the good. A trial was scheduled to begin July 18 over the state's condemnation of the land. Hawai'i can do without that kind of acrimony.
Gov. Ben Cayetano had offered $11 million to buy Queen's Beach and adjoining land from what then was known as Bishop Estate. Bishop Estate said the land wasn't for sale.
It got uglier, as the state moved to condemn the land and Bishop Estate trustee Henry Peters urged the governor "to get away from the mentality of stealing land from Hawaiians."
The haggling, against a backdrop of early grandstanding, was over the price of the land. Bishop Estate had said it was committed to let Kaiser Aluminum and Chemical Corp. develop a golf course on the land. That, it said, was what made the land's fair-market value as much as $80 million.
But no development could occur without the requisite but lacking government permits owing to downzoning by the City Council which is why Cayetano felt comfortable offering so much less.
That fact of life plus the different, more public-spirited approach of the new board at Kamehameha Schools is reflected in the price agreed to this week, $12.8 million, $5.6 million of which is to come from federal highway funds.
State Attorney General Earl Anzai is right that the agreement is a good deal because it leaves no loose ends. The state can proceed with its plans for a shoreline park without the distraction of further legal battles against a formidable opponent.
But most important is the public's interest here, which must include the state's Hawaiian citizens who may feel a sense of loss over the state's "taking" of these lands. What we do next with these lands must reflect a higher purpose.
The stretch of shoreline between Makapu'u and Sandy beaches is the missing link, the final jewels in the necklace, of Oahu's remaining unspoiled shoreline. Preservation is the only way to go; a golf course was never acceptable.
Creation of a huge shoreline park along the southeastern tip of O'ahu is an ambitious but entirely worthy undertaking. The purchase agreement is a big step toward making that a reality.
The development of these lands into a park, however, must proceed with great sensitivity and certainly not as quietly as the negotiations with Kamehameha Schools. The state's plans to redesign Makapu'u Lookout, install underground utility lines and new landscaping, widen Kalaniana'ole Highway, build two parking lots and add another lookout point all must pass public scrutiny.
We only have one chance to get this right.