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Public input on state’s outdoor recreation plan still needed

Updated: 
March 1, 2014 - 5:51am

Despite efforts to reach out to West Hawaii recreational users and providers, attendance was dismal at a meeting pertaining to the 2014 Statewide Comprehensive Outdoor Recreation Plan.

Not counting media, state employees and consultants, only one resident attended the meeting Thursday evening at the West Hawaii Civic Center. It was an opportunity for the public to provide input on the needs and challenges pertaining to outdoor recreation, as well as priorities for the acquisition and development of outdoor recreational facilities.

The low turnout, however, should not imply a lack of participation. At Thursday’s meeting, Catie Cullison, associate planner for PBR Hawaii &Associates Inc., said more than 550 surveys about the plan have been submitted, most of them online, via surveymonkey.com/s/HISCORP2014. In comparison, the 2008 plan generated 448 surveys, mostly from Oahu and Maui residents.

The state Department of Land and Natural Resources is in the process of updating the Statewide Comprehensive Outdoor Recreation Plan, which must be done every five years to remain eligible to receive funding for projects through the Land and Water Conservation Fund, a federal grants program administered by the National Park Service. Since 1966, Hawaii has received $38 million from the Land and Water Conservation Fund, which was used to benefit more than 400 acres of recreation land and open space, Cullison said.

In particular, the Land and Water Conservation Fund provides matching grants to state and county governments for the acquisition, planning and development of public outdoor recreation areas and facilities. The program is intended to create and maintain a legacy of high-quality recreation areas and facilities, as well as to stimulate investments in the protection and maintenance of recreational resources nationwide. The funding cannot be used for staffing, enforcement or management, Cullison said.

For example, $200,000 went toward improving makai beach areas and the mauka rental cabin section at Hapuna Beach State Recreation Area. Another $200,000 went toward improving the park entry road and parking lot, renovating a picnic pavilion and rest shelters, and construction of a new interpretive kiosk at Lava Tree State Monument. A grant was also given to the county to install new playground equipment at Panaewa Zoo in Hilo.

Funding is given to a county project one year and then a state project the next until the allotment is fulfilled. Martha Yent of DLNR’s Division of State Parks said she estimates Hawaii’s appointment of Land and Water Conservation funds will be around $450,000, which is likely enough to fund two large shovel-ready projects. She added, those projects must be completed within five years.

Public participation helps State Parks and NPS determine which projects best meet Hawaii’s recreational needs and helps resolve issues. This plan will also serve as a blueprint for sustaining Hawaii’s outdoor heritage; a framework outlining needs, partnerships and vision for the future; and a resource for identifying priorities of where attention, energy and other funding should be focused, Cullison said.

The feedback so far received includes the need for more trails and greater maintenance of them; adding more walking, jogging and biking paths; continuing the use of community partnerships to maintain the parks; the popularity of stand-up paddling and the competition for space; and conflicts between shoreline fishermen and those in the water.

The plan will include an inventory of recreation resources, public demand for those resources, issues affecting outdoor recreation, and a strategic plan to address new trends, demands and issues. There will also be a wetland resources plan. Cullison anticipates a draft plan will be completed by the end of summer.

The public has until Friday to take the online survey. For more information, visit dlnr.hawaii.gov.