A parade of county dignitaries and former leaders came to the West Hawaii Civic Center on Tuesday to witness the final chapter of a 35-year saga.
“This is special,” said former Mayor Harry Kim. “This is something you as a county council should hold up as a template for all developers who come to Hawaii.”
The County Council, following speeches and a unanimous vote, accepted from developer Kohanaiki Shores LLC a park on the Kohanaiki shoreline, home to the popular “Pine Trees” surf spot. The 38-acre coastal park features 121 parking spaces, toilets, showers and other amenities.
“It’s going to continue to be a special place for generations to come,” said Joe Root, chief operating officer for the developer. “It’s a very powerful and special place.”
The park on one mile of shoreline, the county’s use of 108 acres and a new mauka-makai road along its northern border with Ooma II, which would connect a new lateral public access road running roughly mauka and parallel to the existing coastal jeep road, are all part of a 2003 agreement the county signed with the developer following 25 years of litigation and negotiation over shoreline access.
“This is a great day for Kona and a great day for the Big Island,” said former county Planning Director Chris Yuen. “They came here as developers, but one thing that they developed was an understanding of the needs of the local community and the Native Hawaiian culture … how public access is handled today is exactly how it was spelled out 10 years ago.”
“There’s not enough thanks to give to the people of the past,” said Kona Councilman Dru Kanuha.
Kohanaiki Shores LLC plans to build 500 luxury homes and a golf course on 470 acres about four miles north of Kailua-Kona. The current jeep trail will revert to pedestrian access only and become part of the 150-mile Ala Kahakai Trail around the island.
“This park is the result of the community’s effort and a shared vision of what could be,” said North Kona Councilwoman Karen Eoff, one of the original members of Kohanaiki Ohana, who fought for decades for the shoreline access.
Even those who unsuccessfully fought the developer in order to keep the jeep trail access open praised the project while lamenting the loss of vehicular access.
“It’s a bittersweet day,” said Janice Palma-Glennie, choking up with emotion. “Along with 450 acres of land, we lost some of our closest allies and friends. … As people say, ‘It could have been worse.’”
Palma-Glennie said she collected more than 4,000 signatures from people opposed to the closure of the current jeep trail to vehicles.
“A lot of people are mad because we traded a public road for a bathroom,” said Shannon Rudolph. “Some of my friends are barely speaking with each other because of what happened down there.”
“This is a time for everyone to heal,” said South Kona/Ka‘u Councilwoman Brenda Ford. “It’s not exactly the way we would have wanted it, but it’s certainly better than losing it.”
A formal dedication of the park is planned June 25.