A portion of the Mauna Kea State Recreation Area is expected to be put in Hawaii County’s hands after the state Board of Land and Natural Resources authorized the signing of a management agreement Friday.
Under the agreement, which the state Department of Land and Natural Resources plans to sign, the county will be responsible for maintaining and improving the developed park area.
The board’s action also approves in concept the withdrawal of the developed park land from the recreation area.
The park is the only rest stop along Saddle Road, which has seen an increase in traffic as improvements to the cross-island route progress. Seeing the park as underutilized and lacking proper care, Mayor Billy Kenoi sought for several years to put the county in control.
Kenoi first approached the state in 2010 about transferring management of the park and Hapuna Beach State Recreation Area to the county. The following year, the state Legislature urged DLNR to maintain control of the parks.
In 2013, the Legislature requested the discussions to continue, according to DLNR. Department staff initiated discussions again with the county regarding the Mauna Kea park in October.
Located at 6,500 feet, the park includes restrooms and cabins. Neither have potable water or sinks after yields from up slope springs dropped.
Pohakuloa Training Area also received water from the springs. It stopped using the water in 2012, according to DLNR.
The county plans to install sinks and truck water to the park, Kenoi said in a voicemail.
Transporting water is expected to cost $104,400 a year.
Kenoi estimates operating costs at over $200,000 a year.
During the first year, about $300,000 is expected to be spent.
Under the agreement, DLNR will install a new booster pump to increase water flow from storage tanks on the site.
It’s unclear how long the county plans to transport water.
The absence of sinks was the biggest complaint of visitors to the park last week.
“It needs sinks and potable water,” said Jeff Washington of Honolulu.
“Other than that, it’s great. Look at that view.”
Additionally, the county intends to make repairs to the cabins and improve the parking lot.
Like much of the area, the land is dry with little vegetation but hosts excellent views of Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa.
Over a half dozen rustic cabins, mostly used by hunters, are located past the restrooms.
A former park headquarters is shuttered near the entrance.
Typically, the park is used by travellers as a place to stretch their legs and take pictures of the scenery.
But Kenoi thinks it has more potential.
“We want to make it available to youth groups, to community groups, to nonprofits, to families,” he said.
“Longer term, we want to make sure we do good strategic planning and management of the area going forward,” Kenoi added.
Email Tom Callis at firstname.lastname@example.org.