By ERIN MILLER
Hawaii County Mayor Billy Kenoi wants to finish the first phase of Old Kona Airport Park improvements before he leaves office in 2016, but county officials don’t yet know how much that will cost — or even what will be built.
Parks and Recreation Director Clayton Honma said work will include “grassing” the park — replacing the runway with a meandering drive and planting grass in the unused areas. Other than that, officials haven’t decided what comes next. Honma said officials are in discussions with different user groups, and the county did complete a master plan for the facility, now generally referred to as Makaeo Park, in 2009.
Once the county selects which projects it wants to take on at the park, which is heavily used and generally full on the weekends, “then we will try to find the price tag,” Honma said.
Potentially, the first phase could include a youth center, he added.
Kenoi, speaking in Kona Tuesday, mentioned the county had started the special management area permit process for the work. Shorelines in Hawaii are all designated special management areas, and construction in those areas requires a separate permitting process.
Honma said Thursday his department has yet to submit an application to the Planning Department. He was uncertain whether the request would be for a minor or major permit.
Previous estimates for at least some of the work at the park have been as high as $42 million.
The scope of work outlined in the 2009 master plan included more restrooms and lockers, concessions, canoe halau, youth and senior centers, a 25-yard swimming pool, skate park, shared-use pedestrian and bicycle path, and additional lawn and landscaped areas. The land to the north of the site, which houses a number of cultural resources, will remain undeveloped.
The county has had a hard time moving ahead on the project, despite taking responsibility for the park from the state in 2007, in part because the state’s Department of Land and Natural Resources has refused to hand over full ownership. The DLNR’s concerns focused on the need to relocate its Kona baseyard, which is now based at the park.
DLNR Chairman William Aila said in January his department, through Gov. Neil Abercrombie’s capital improvements request to the state Legislature, is seeking $2 million to move the baseyard to DLNR property at Honokohau Harbor. Honma said the executive order process, through which the state could hand over the land to the county, was ongoing.
Community groups have, with county permission, taken on some of the projects on their own. The Kailua-Kona Tennis Club and its members resurfaced the park’s tennis courts. The Kona Skatepark Association completed the first phase of the skatepark in late 2011. People’s Advocacy for Trails Hawaii was working on a conceptual plan for a multiuse bike and pedestrian path to connect the different areas of the park. Kai Opua Canoe Club in 2011 completed its long-planned halau on the park property.
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