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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Monday, April 17, 2006

Small dream gets bit bigger

By Suzanne Roig
Advertiser East Honolulu Writer

Workers are moving dirt at Koko Crater to build an archery range, as well as parking, landscaping and sidewalks. Some residents say the project is bigger than expected and want the work to stop.

JEFF WIDENER | The Honolulu Advertiser

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It wasn't supposed to be a big project, just a simple archery range with a level lot and maybe a shed to store equipment so the sport of archery could have a place to be nourished.

Instead, the vision that Jerry Hucks who has since passed away had five years ago has grown to include drainage, a gravel parking lot with handicap parking, irrigation, landscaping and sidewalks. Since construction began in mid-March, residents are alarmed at the amount of crater that's being carved away and some want to stop the project.

When Hucks first proposed the project in 2000, he wanted a facility so more people could participate in archery. His vision was simple: get the city to agree to it and the archers would build a covered area and a storage space with maybe a picnic table and a restroom, said Estelle Hucks, Jerry Hucks' wife.

No one ever said a word against his project. Not in the vision meetings, not in the neighborhood board meetings, not at the city or state level when the necessary permits were approved, said Mary Houghton, Hawai'i Kai Neighborhood Board Parks and Recreation Committee chairwoman.

But that was before residents saw the wide swath of fresh earth laid bare at the base of Koko Crater by large earth moving equipment from Kalaniana'ole Highway.

"My beloved Koko Crater has a scar on it," said Mele Welte, a Kalama Valley resident who drives past the construction site daily. "I'm so saddened."

Welte took her concerns to the Hawai'i Kai Neighborhood Board recently and has been flooding government offices with e-mails and phone calls. She called her councilman and the mayor, the Outdoor Circle and Life of the Land, even Kamehameha Schools, which had given the land to the city.

Royal Contracting Co. Ltd. was given the contract to build an archery facility that included grading an area 450 feet long and 108 feet wide on the right side of the shooting complex. The contract was for $432,950, with an additional $28,000 asked for because of a change order after work began March 15, said Eugene Lee, city Department of Design and Construction director.

When completed in July, it will have nine archery lanes enclosed by a chainlink fence. The handicap access is a requirement for all municipal construction projects, Lee said, and the irrigation and landscaping is a way to avoid runoff in case of heavy rains. While Hucks' vision didn't include mandated accessibility requirements, his was a simple plan for an area where archers shoot and rest and possibly store their targets, Estelle Hucks said.

"I feel like all I've done is make a lot of noise," Welte said. "It just seems like no one asked the question if this is the right place for an archery range."

Welte said she had never heard about the project, even though it has been discussed off and on since Hucks first proposed it in 2000. It wasn't until she saw the earth-moving equipment start to clear the hillside last month that she became alarmed, she said.

The placement of the range was decided by the former city Department of Parks and Recreation director during the previous mayor's tenure. East Honolulu archers now use a small eastern portion of Kapi'olani Park and there is a new facility in Waikele and one in Kapolei.

"It's in the perfect spot," Houghton said. "When it is done it will be beautiful. It will be landscaped, irrigated, it will have trees and there will be a berm. All of it designed to keep the arrows on the range and not out on the road or in the shooting complex and to keep people from crossing the range."

Councilman Charles Djou said the city could cancel the contract, but would be responsible for the bid amount anyway. He conceded that the money could be better spent on sewers or police officers, but the decision for the range was made in Mayor Jeremy Harris' administration.

"The money is already encumbered and cannot be used for anything else," Djou said. "It's not a bad use of taxpayer money to expand our park system. Although, a half million dollars could have been spent in other ways."

Reach Suzanne Roig at sroig@honoluluadvertiser.com.