East Hawaii News

Waimea Community Association Pushes for Hapuna Transfer

March 28, 2013, 6:25 PM HST
* Updated March 28, 6:29 PM
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The Waimea Community Association is encouraging the public to lobby state lawmakers to move on a bill that would transfer control of Hapuna Beach State Park to Hawaii County.

Senate Bill 457, Senate Draft 2 calls for the state Department of Land and Natural Resources to enter into negotiations for the lease of Hapuna to Hawaii County.

The association’s latest newsletter suggests the community send emails to Kona Rep. Cindy Evans, who chairs the House Committee on Water and Land, which  shelved the bill on March 15.

It also encouraged the lobbying of Big Island Sen. Malama Solomon, one of the co-sponsors of the measure.

Following several key amendments, the bill was approved by the Senate but has yet to have a hearing in the House.

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The newsletter noted that the transfer to county control of Hapuna as well as that of Mauna Kea State Recreation Area on Saddle Road, the subject of Senate Bill 456, has been a high priority of Mayor Billy Kenoi.

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The newsletter said that the community association agrees with Mayor Billy Kenoi that the county could do a better job of maintaining Hapuna, which is the Big Island’s largest and busiest beach, and the Saddle Road park.

Sherman Warner, the association’s president, testified that more than 100 of the group’s members took part in a vote on the matter, and all but two were in favor of the transfer.

“Here’s the heart of the issue: Do Hawai’i Island children and families deserve clean, safe restrooms and a well maintained and managed beach park at Hapuna, which is one of the most beautiful and popular beaches on the island?” the newsletter said.

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“Also, do residents deserve decent public restrooms at the only “comfort station” on the long drive cross island on Saddle Road? Is there any reason to think the deteriorating conditions at these public recreation areas will improve as long as the State Department of Land and Natural Resources is responsible for these facilities after years of neglect?”

The original drafts of both bills called for the transfer to the county of ownership of the parks as well as all state funding for their maintenance and operation.

However, after hearing concerns expressed by the state attorney general about the legality of giving the park — which is ceded lands — to the county outright, the Senate changed the method of transfer to a lease at a cost of $1 a year.

The Senate also removed the clause that would give the state appropriations to the county after hearing objections from DLNR Chairman William Aila Jr.

Aila’s testimony said that would require “funds generated in State Parks statewide being transferred to the County of Hawaii.”

He also said that the DLNR has made “significant improvements” to Hapuna, including spending $3.8 million over the past decade on improvements to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

The newsletter said the state already pays Hawaii County $400,000 per year for lifeguard services at Hapuna, a cost it said the county is willing to absorb.

In testimony submitted to the Senate, Kenoi said that the county already maintains other parks in the South Kohala area and would use “economies of scale” to minimize maintenance and personnel costs.

“This is a solution that benefits everyone, but the most important beneficiaries are the children and families that will visit and enjoy this public treasure in the years ahead,” Kenoi said.

According to the current draft of both bills, if lease agreements are not established by Jan. 1, the DLNR is to report back to the Legislature on the status of negotiations.

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