By NANCY COOK LAUER
The County Council’s planned acceptance Tuesday of the Kohanaiki coastal park is a landmark event for Kohala Councilwoman Karen Eoff.
“I pretty much lived it every step of the way,” said Eoff, who as a member of the “Kohanaiki Ohana” group, fought more than a quarter century for shoreline access to the area, which is home to the popular “Pine Trees” surf spot.
The county is accepting the 38-acre coastal park with 121 parking spaces, toilets, showers and other amenities from developer Kohanaiki Shores LLC.
The park, the county’s use of 108 acres and “a new mauka-makai road along its northern border with Ooma II, which would connect a new lateral public access road that would run roughly parallel to the existing coastal jeep road, but inland” are all part of a 2003 agreement the county signed with the developer following 25 years of litigation and negotiation over shoreline access.
“To me, it’s a big, full circle that it’s going to be me who’s going to accept the donation,” Eoff said.
The current jeep trail will revert to pedestrian access only and become part of the ancient 150-mile Ala Kahakai Trail around the island. Kohanaiki Shores LLC plans to build 500 luxury homes and a golf course on 470 acres about four miles north of Kailua-Kona.
Kohanaiki is makai and to the north of the Kaloko Industrial area.
Eoff said former Mayor Harry Kim, who signed the 2003 agreement, will be among the dignitaries at the council meeting.
The meeting begins at 9 a.m. Tuesday at the West Hawaii Civic Center, with videoconference links to the council chambers in Hilo, the Pahoa and Waimea council offices and the Hawaiian Ocean View Estates Community Center.
Also planning to attend is Janice Palma-Glennie, who says she’s collected more than 4,000 signatures from people opposed to the closure of the current jeep trail to vehicles. She said she wanted to print them out to illustrate the depth of the opposition, but she decided to save paper and give each council member a CD instead.
“I’m glad it’s changing to the county’s hands,” Palma-Glennie said, “as long as it feels like a public park and the public has open access to the shoreline.”
Palma-Glennie says a private restaurant, pools and other exclusive “members only” structures have recently been built along the trail and without the traditional access, the southern portion of the public park could become “an exclusive playground of the rich.”
A formal dedication of the park has been tentatively set for June 25.
“The agreement to build a park where there was once a plan to build a hotel was forged out of a cooperative spirit and a willingness to find a solution,” Eoff said. “It is a new and innovative approach to have a 3-way partnership between the county, the landowner and the community to manage the park. I am confident that Kohanaiki will always be a special place for our families to enjoy.”
In other business on Tuesday, the council is expected to vote on a variety of fee increases.
Bill 85 raises the vehicle weight tax from 0.75 cents per pound of vehicle to 1.25 cents per pound for noncommercial vehicles and passenger-carrying vehicles, such as buses, and from 2 cents to 2.5 cents per pound for trucks and nonpassenger commercial vehicles. The minimum tax will go from $6 to $12, and the county’s annual registration fee will go from $5 to $12.
County officials estimated the increases will range from $24.70 to $176.70 annually, depending on the vehicle. This would be the first county rate increase since 2004.
Hikes to vehicles registration and weight fees will raise about $2.8 million, according to county Finance Department. The money will go into the highway fund, which pays for highway repairs and maintenance, mass transit services and related work. The bill is on its first of two readings.
Bill 86, on its final reading, would raise bus fares, beginning July 1.
The bill will increase bus fares by $1 per one-way trip, doubling the rate for regular riders to $2 and ending free rides for students, seniors and people with disabilities. Email Nancy Cook Lauer at firstname.lastname@example.org.