Waiahole Beach Park plan opposed
By James Gonser
Advertiser Urban Honolulu Writer
By James Gonser
After years of delay, the city has released its $7.6 million master plan for the development of Waiahole Beach Park, but some residents in the rural Windward community say the project should be scaled back.
A community group of volunteers that has already adopted the park and regularly holds cleanups there says it will lobby against the proposal.
"We don't need to spend money on all these expensive improvements," said David Chinen, president of the Waiahole and Waikane Community Association. "As long as we can cut the grass, keep the place nice and have a place people can go and enjoy, that's good enough. That is our expectation. We don't expect the city to spend that kind of money just for Waiahole Beach Park."
The park is mostly cleared, but has no recreational improvements. The city's proposal would add walking trails, picnic areas and a five-acre open field along a narrow section of coastline. Improvements would include a restroom, two parking lots and turning lanes into the park from Kamehameha Highway.
The 19-acre park stretches from Waikane Stream on the north to Waiahole Stream along Kane'ohe Bay, according to a draft environmental assessment filed with the state Dec. 23. As part of the proposal, the city would also develop a new wetland area next to the park to make up for a small wetland site that was inadvertently lost during park cleanups.
The city purchased the land for a park in the mid-1990s, but no funding was available for improvements. Instead, city crews and the community have worked together to remove hau and other overgrowth that blocked the ocean view.
In 2003, the Waiahole and Waikane Community Association gathered volunteers to help remove trash and abandoned cars from the park as part of a continuing effort to rid the area of illegal dumping, drug dealing and squatters.
Chinen said members of the community association will oppose the city plan.
"We have reservations about the comfort station," he said. "If you look along the Windward Coast at all these comfort stations, it is a pigsty. They cannot even maintain what they have now. We prefer to keep the place as it is, open space. Use that money to finish up cleaning. We clean up rubbish, make piles and the city cannot even pick it up."
The master plan was developed by the city Department of Design and Construction. Money for the park's design and preliminary work is allocated, according to city planner Terry Hildebrand, but the bulk of the money would have to be appropriated using city capital improvement project funding.
City Council Chairman Donovan Dela Cruz represents the area and said the rural community should have a decent city park just like other parts of the island. Dela Cruz said with all the work and effort that has gone into this project, some form of a park should be completed.
"The people of Waiahole/ Waikane deserve a community park — one that is easily accessible," he said. "It has so much potential. Once it gets developed and people use it, the likelihood of continued illegal dumping will be reduced."
Building the park will also help with flood control and provide safe parking areas off the road, Dela Cruz said.
"There are health and safety issues," he said.
Public presentations for the park master plan were made before the Waiahole and Waikane Community Association in May 2000 and before the Kahalu'u Neighborhood Board in January 2002. The work had been stalled while an archaeological survey and wetland concept plan were completed, Hildebrand said.
If needed permits are issued, construction could begin by the end of 2006, he said.
George Okuda, chairman of the Kahalu'u Neighborhood Board, said the board will discuss the master plan at its Jan. 10 meeting.
"We haven't seen the EA (environmental assessment) or had a presentation in a long time," Okuda said. "It's all new stuff coming out. We've discussed it in the past and we'd like to have that area fixed up, but we need more public input and cannot say what the sentiments are now because it was so long ago."
Reach James Gonser at firstname.lastname@example.org.