BY ERIN MILLER | WEST HAWAII TODAY
Work on a long-fought-for shoreline park will begin within the next couple of months, starting with a blessing and cultural ceremony in early February.
Community members formed the Kohanaiki Ohana to push for a shoreline park at the popular beach, eventually reaching a compromise with Rutter Development to build a lateral access road along the beach and provide parking, rest rooms and a canoe halau.
"We are planning to continue the on-site property improvements," Discovery Kohanaiki Properties LLC's Kaimi Judd said Thursday. "At the forefront is the park improvements."
Judd said additional details about the park will be available as early as Monday.
North Kona Councilman Angel Pilago successfully took a former property owner, Nansay Inc., to court over Native Hawaiian gathering rights on the property. He was out of the office Thursday and unavailable to comment by phone but provided a short statement via email praising the efforts community members put forth to ensure the park's completion.
"This effort is a very good and clear example of how community, government and private industry can work together for the good of the public trust; in this case, the creation of a park for the people of Hawaii," Pilago said.
Kohanaiki has the Planning Department approvals it needs to begin work on the park, Director Bobby Jean Leithead Todd said. She said she would not require Kohanaiki to complete an updated certified shoreline application; former Planning Director Christopher Yuen also told the developers, in 2006, they would not need to update the shoreline.
"That would really delay things," Leithead Todd said, noting the lengthy process to survey and certify a shoreline.
Emails included in the Planning Department file on the park indicated moving the road any farther mauka than the proposed location might move the road into the setbacks for anchialine ponds.
Is the road close enough to the high water wash that it could get damaged during high surf?
"Any area close to the ocean, there's always a concern because we know sea level is rising," Leithead Todd said. "If that is an issue in the future, we may have to change the road. We're not there yet."
Development plans for the parcel go back until at least the mid-1980s, then under Kona Beach Development Venture. That company's original plan for the land included two hotels, 1,150 homes, a 150-slip marina and a golf course.
A good faith agreement, reached in 2003, called for Rutter Development to set aside 128 acres for open space at the Kohanaiki property. According to documents filed with the Planning Department, about 63 acres was to be the golf course, managed by the development. Another 38 acres was to be active park land. Park ownership was to be transferred to the county or to a quasi-public entity to manage the park, the original proposal said.