New Community Centers Planned in South Kona
by Dave Smith
A South Kona community group has been awarded a federal grant to build a community center in Miloli‘i.
Pa‘a Pono Miloli‘i has a long history of assisting the residents of the historic fishing village.
Since it was formed in 1980, the non-profit group has helped establish a master plan for Miloli‘i and its 500 residents, the majority of which are native Hawaiians. It has also convinced the state Legislature to pass a bill establishing a Marine Managed Area and has established programs teaching the area’s youth sustainable fishing techniques.
But it has done it without the benefit of a community center.
Pa‘a Pono Miloli‘i President Kaiali‘i Kahele said the community center is expected to cost $400,000.
He said the group has already secured a $300,000 grant from the US Department of Housing and Urban Development to be used for the Miloli‘i community center and a beach pavilion at Ho‘okena Beach Park.
Kahele said the organization is seeking additional grants from HUD and various native Hawaiian organizations to complete the projects.
Plans for the Miloli‘i center call for construction of three structures totaling 4,800 square feet.
The first phase would consist of a multi-purpose community center measuring 4,000 square feet. It would be open to the air except for an enclosed section in the south end containing an office, visitor reception center and library rooms. The north end of the building would have an enclosed kitchen and classroom.
The second phase involves the construction of two 400-square-foot buildings, one with bathroom facilities and the other with two bedrooms to serve as guest quarters.
The facility would be served by a catchment water system with a 20,000-gallon tank. Because Miloli‘i and its 500 residents are “off-grid” and lack formal electrical service, a photovoltaic solar system with a generator back-up will provide power to the community center.
According to a draft environmental assessment for the project, the first phase is expected to be completed within 18 months of obtaining building permits and other approvals. Phase 2 is anticipated to be finished a year after that.
The Miloli‘i Community Enrichment and Historical Center would be built on four parcels of state land totaling 40,000 square feet. Most of the land has already been graded and a portion of it was used for a now-abandoned pilot water desalination plant built in 1990.
Kahele said the community does have access to a “halau” located at the county beach park, but needs a larger facility.
“The community has always lacked a location where you can do more than have birthday parties,” he said.
Another ongoing project has Pa‘a Pono Miloli‘i teaming up with another community group, Friends of Ho‘okena Beach Park, to build a community pavilion at that popular South Kona beach.
Friends of Ho‘okena Beach Park in 2007 entered into an agreement with the county to manage camping at the beach where it also operates a concession selling food and renting snorkeling equipment and camping gear. The proceeds are used to maintain the park.
The group’s formation was also prompted by the need for increased security after a high-profile incident involving assaults on campers occurred there.
Like Miloli‘i, Ho‘okena lacks a community center. The office of Friends of Ho‘okena Beach Park, which has eight part-time employees, is currently in a private home.
According to the draft environmental assessment for the project, while the beach park offers restrooms, showers and picnicking facilities, it lacks a “building that could significantly unite the elements of community identify and heritage, while also serving as headquarters for the many programs, services and activities” offered there.
Half of the 3,200-square-foot pavilion would be open-air. The rest would include an enclosed office space, two equipment storage rooms and a cultural center space. The estimated price tag for the Ho‘okena facility is also $400,000.
In letters dated March 6, county Planning Director Bobby Jean Leithead-Todd anticipates findings of no significant impact for both projects.