Wednesday | January 18, 2017
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Baseyard stalls state transfer of Old Kona Airport

The state department that owns the Old Kona Airport Park still hasn’t transferred the property to Hawaii County.

The county took over maintenance and other park responsibilities several years ago, but without the final transfer of ownership from the Department of Land and Natural Resources, some of the county’s bigger plans for the property remain shelved.

“It’s been frustrating we haven’t gotten it transferred over,” Parks and Recreation Director Bob Fitzgerald said. “We are limited (by the lack of ownership) as far as going to collect bigger funding.”

Mayor Billy Kenoi agreed.

“It’s frustrating not having a time line we can work with or depend on,” Kenoi said, adding the county’s plans are somewhat “hampered” by the state’s inaction.

Kenoi said he did believe the state will eventually transfer the property.

“We continue to hope it will be sooner rather than later,” he added.

DLNR spokesman Clifford Inn said the department hasn’t completed the transfer because it is still looking for a suitable location to relocate its baseyard that is presently at the park. The department has scouted several sites, Inn said, but doesn’t have a time frame to move the baseyard.

Fitzgerald said the county has been able to pursue some projects at the park, including completing a canoe halau and allowing a skateboarding group to move ahead with skate park plans. He said improvements are in the works for Makaeo Events Pavilion, and some other work may also happen soon.

“We’re kind of proceeding without that anyway with the old special management area permit (the state had for the park),” he added. “There’s little things we can do.”

The county has most of the responsibility for the park, including paying for repairs and maintenance, as well as jurisdiction over park activities, he said.

The state has other land it could use for the baseyard, Fitzgerald said, speculating the cost of building a new baseyard facility might be one reason the state hasn’t rushed to move. He said the county is working on a plan for the Kealakehe Regional Park, near Kealakehe High School, and may consider setting aside a few acres there for a state baseyard, if the state is interested.

The county assumed management responsibilities for the park in 2008. The county completed a master plan for the 117-acre park the next year. Highlights of the plan include more restrooms and lockers, concessions, youth and senior centers and a shared-use pedestrian and bike path. The plan calls for the removal of the old runway and creating a new beach access road. In all, the full plan would cost an estimated $42 million. Fitzgerald said the county needs a new SMA permit to begin the major construction.