Public supports parks takeover


A show of hands Thursday evening in Waimea revealed near-unanimous support for Mayor Billy Kenoi’s request to allow the county to take over Hapuna Beach State Park and Mauna Kea State Recreational Area.

Waimea Town Meeting President Sherm Warner took a quick poll at a meeting at Waimea Elementary School to see who favored the measure, which has the support of Sen. Malama Solomon, D-North Hawaii. Of the more than 100 people in attendance, most voted and only two raised their hands to say they opposed the idea.

Kenoi, after the meeting, said he’s getting strong support around the island.

“We’re not talking about a situation people are unfamiliar with,” he said. “It’s not a situation that has arisen the last few months.”

Solomon introduced SB 456, which would transfer 10 acres of Mauna Kea State Recreational Area, on Saddle Road, to the county. She sat down with Kenoi and Department of Land and Natural Resources officials to discuss the proposal. Kenoi said the meeting went well. For years he’s been asking the department to step up maintenance efforts in both parks, he said.

“Enough is enough,” Kenoi said. “We’ll take responsibility.”

Much of the large crowd — at one point the cafeteria was standing room only — appeared to be in attendance to support Solomon and Kenoi in their efforts to secure funding and begin work on the long-anticipated Waimea Regional Park. Waimea youth sports teams came out in full force, wearing uniform jerseys, to express their desire to see the park become available soon.

Kenoi said the park’s first phase will cost $13 million, with the state paying $5 million and the county covering the remainder.

Solomon took a few questions at the end of the meeting. Only one was specifically related to the Public Lands Development Corp., which Solomon supports but which many county officials and residents are calling on the Legislature to repeal. That question was only to check with Solomon to see when a measure relating to the repeal efforts would be heard. Solomon said a hearing was scheduled for Monday.

The senator called on Hawaii Island residents to submit testimony for a hearing on SB 451, which would make Hawaiian Airlines subject to the Public Utilities Commission’s regulations.

“The way those airfares are going and with the closing of Tesoro, here you’re going to see more increases in terms of our transportation costs,” Solomon said, adding she didn’t know how far the bill would progress.

The Senate’s Consumer Protection Committee is scheduled to hear that bill at 9 a.m. today.

Solomon ran down a list of bills of interest to Hawaii Island residents and noted she has requests for $85 million in funding for regional projects, from work at the Kona International Airport to Kohala High School, including $3.5 million for the West Hawaii Health Center in Waikoloa.