Improvement projects for Kona’s downtown beach parks on track for May completion
March 4, 2023, 4:00 AM HST
West side residents may have noticed some extra activity happening at popular Magic Sands and La’aola beach parks in downtown Kailua-Kona: excavators digging up dirt and construction workers building restrooms and accessible walkways.
Hawaiʻi County is spearheading two projects concurrently — the La‘aloa Beach Park Preservation Improvements and Magic Sands Beach Park Accessibility Improvements.
Work to the left of a dry stack wall is the Laʻaola project and the work to the right is the accessibility improvements.
The projects started in October after being on hold for five years to deal with the demands of the State Historic Preservation Division, other groups and community members about the protection of sacred heiaus (Hawaiian temples) and other historical sites at the adjacent beach parks.
In May 2017, the Department of Parks & Recreation closed the paved, 27-stalls parking area at La’aola Beach Park to honor commitments the County agreed to with the Hawai‘i Island Burial Council, State Historic Preservation Division, cultural and lineal descendants, and cultural practitioners in respect of and in furtherance of the preservation of the Haukālua heiau and several other culturally significant sites located on the property.
Park officials said at the time they anticipated the opening of a reconfigured and reduced-capacity parking lot in approximately 18 months.
The current projects, which total $2.15 million, include building an accessibility ramp and new bathrooms, fixing the degraded parking area, preserving heiaus with a buffer of native plants and adding interpretive signs.
According to a 2007 preservation plan, there are several historical sites at Magic Sands including the Haukālua Heiau, a habitation platform, historic wall remnant, furo (spring), location of former Kūʻula (fishing shrine), location of canoe landing, papamū and poho palu (bait mortars).
Isemoto Contracting Company is overseeing both projects, which are on schedule with about 50% completed. There have been a few delays due to weather but plans are on track for the park to reopen in May, said James M. Komata, Park Planner for the Hawaiʻi Department of Parks and Recreation.
The Magic Sands contract is for $1.44 million of which the County has paid 34.47% as of February. The La‘aloa contract is for $706,824 of which the County has paid 17.44% as of Feb. 1.
The new parking lot will have only 11 spots, including two that are handicap accessible. The south end of the parking lot will be blocked off to vehicles and only accessible to pedestrians, Parks and Recreation Director Maurice Messina told community members in October during an information gathering about the projects.
Several trees have been removed as part of the project. The java plum tree was removed at Magic Sands for construction of the accessible ramp system connecting the site to touristy Ali‘i Drive. One ficus and one coconut palm were removed for creation of the accessible walkways and placement of the accessible picnic table. Three coconut trees and 12 existing stumps also were removed, Komata said.
“We also trimmed all the remaining trees at the park [coconuts, milo and heliotrope] for public safety reasons and to promote healthy, vigorous growth going forward,” he said. “We will be planting three new milo trees and five new coconut trees towards the end of the project.“
At La‘aloa, they removed approximately 20 trees of various sizes (kiawe, opiuma and false kamani) and approximately eight tree stumps to satisfy the terms of the preservation plan’s improvements approved by the state.
“We also removed two coconut trees due to excessive lean and undermining,” Komata said. “We did save two opiuma trees in place [originally scheduled to be removed] and trimmed all the remaining trees on site. We will be planting approximately four new milo trees, five new hala trees, and countless ʻulei, ʻakulikuli, ki, and alaheʻe shrubs/groundcover plants in strategic locations.”