Some residents are protesting the planned closure of the Kohanaiki jeep trail to vehicular traffic, pictured here in 2009. (File Photo /West Hawaii Today)
HILO — Opponents of the planned closure of the Kohanaiki jeep trail to vehicular traffic have gathered more than 2,600 signatures in a petition submitted to Mayor Billy Kenoi late last week.
“For over 60 years, the public has been able to drive on the jeep trail at Kohanaiki south to where a private restaurant, pools and other exclusive ‘members only’ structures have recently been built,” said organizer Janice Palma-Glennie. “Without that traditional access, the huge, southern portion of the so-called ‘public park’ could become an exclusive playground of the rich.”
Kohanaiki is located makai and to the north of the Kaloko Industrial area.
Palma-Glennie said Monday she’d gathered signatures on 2,662 online petitions and more than 250 hand-circulated petitions.
But Kenoi and North Kona Councilwoman Karen Eoff, herself a member of the “Kohanaiki Ohana” group that fought for shoreline access to the area, which is home to the popular “Pine Trees” surf spot, say the closure is part of the agreement with developer Kohanaiki Shores LLC.
Eoff said the agreement, signed in 2003 by former Mayor Harry Kim, followed 25 years of litigation and negotiation over shoreline access.
“This was a very important compromise decision that was forged out of years of lawsuits,” Eoff said Monday. “It’s been a long road.”
Kenoi agreed. He praised Eoff for her hard work on the issue and said his administration plans to keep a close watch on the development.
“A lot of people have worked really hard to put together that agreement back in 2003,” Kenoi said. “Our goal is to make sure the developer, or any developer, meets their obligations to the community.”
Under the agreement, the developer is donating the use of 108 acres and constructing a 38-acre coastal park with 121 parking spaces, toilets, showers and other amenities. Kohanaiki Shores LLC is also providing “a new mauka-makai road along its northern border with Ooma II, which would connect a new lateral public access road that would run roughly parallel to the existing coastal jeep road, but inland,” according to the developer’s application for a special management area permit.
The current jeep trail will revert to pedestrian access only and become part of the ancient 150-mile Ala Kahakai Trail around the island.
Kohanaiki Shores LLC plans to build 500 luxury homes and a golf course on 470 acres about four miles north of Kailua-Kona. Sales were expected to start Monday.
The County Council will accept the deed to the new park later this month, and a formal dedication of the new park also is planned, according to county staff.