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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Monday, May 15, 2006

Hapuna rec area expanding

By Kevin Dayton
Advertiser Big Island Bureau

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HILO, Hawai'i A major expansion of the popular Hapuna Beach State Recreation Area is advancing to provide more campsites and hiking trails.

The state Board of Land and Natural Resources is supporting a plan to transfer nearly 460 acres to the state Parks Division, which already has started construction of a paved parking lot, a new access road and bathrooms at Wailea Bay.

The existing Hapuna recreation area, two miles south of Kawaihae, totals 62 acres and includes one of the most visited white-sand beaches on the Big Island. Various plans to expand it have been in the works since at least 1970.

The area to be added to the park is mostly barren lava fields with a sparse crop of fountain grass and kiawe trees, and state officials want to build picnic areas with comfort stations and family and group campgrounds there.

State officials are also proposing new hiking trails and shoreline paths, along with the parking lot project already under way, to provide better access to Wailea Bay, which is south of the main beach at Hapuna.

The Big Island "doesn't have too many beaches, and this is one of the nicer ones around," said Daniel Quinn, state parks administrator.

There is no money available for the new trails, campgrounds and picnic areas, Quinn said, and he doesn't know when that work might begin.

State parks officials are just wrapping up several improvements at the existing Hapuna recreation area, including $1.7 million in construction to upgrade bathrooms, install septic tanks and make park facilities accessible to the disabled.

Officials had considered a proposal to add yet another 320 acres mauka of Queen Ka'ahumanu Highway to the Hapuna recreation area to develop into a golf course, but that plan was deferred "until more definitive development plans and financial commitments become available," according to a staff report to the board.

The board voted April 28 to recommend that Gov. Linda Lingle issue an executive order setting the land aside for the state park plan.

Reach Kevin Dayton at kdayton@honoluluadvertiser.com.