KAILUA-KONA — An iconic Alii Drive park area continues to wait for a facelift that’s now two years in the making.
Hawaii County closed the parking lot south of Laaloa Beach Park, also referred to as Magic Sands, in May 2017 with plans to either reduce lot capacity or remove the structure altogether. The Department of Parks and Recreation announced an initial timeline for project completion of roughly 18 months.
Twenty-four months later, the lot is still closed and looks to remain that way for the foreseeable future. It’s a reality in contradiction with what Parks and Recreation Director Roxcie Waltjen told West Hawaii Today in July 2018 — that the project was “going to be moving forward real soon.”
Maurice Messina, deputy director of Parks and Recreation, said the delays are tied to a lack of public comment on the project. The mayor and the department held a stakeholder meeting on Nov. 1, he said, and have implemented “several time extensions” hoping for comments that never came.
“Nobody was commenting, and you know, it’s so important to have the input from the stakeholders and the lineal descendants that we didn’t want to make a final plan decision until we had those comments,” Messina said.
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Comments or no, Messina added Parks and Rec will move forward after recently issuing a final request for comment and stamping it with a deadline of May 31.
The department’s intention is to submit a file plan ready for bidding and construction to the State Historic Preservation Division (SHPD) for final review and approval no later than June or July, Messina said. Though, the department is waiting on SHPD classifications on certain structures at the site to determine what historical significance they might hold before it proceeds.
What proceeding will look like precisely, and when it will occur, also remain open questions.
“I can’t answer that right now,” Messina said when asked about when final project decisions will be made and when a new timeline will be set. “I can tell you we are going to stick with the State Historic Preservation plan that was first outlined. We’re not going to deviate from that.”
The parking lot renovation was initially part of a larger vision to include walking spaces and the restoration of the natural landscape of the park area introduced under Mayor Stephen Yamashiro in the 1990s.
According to a project summary outline in the final environmental assessment for the “Laaloa Avenue New Park Development — which is dated June 25, 2018, and produced findings of no significant impact — the “new park … on a site long planned for a park,” will include several amenities.
Mentioned are a playing field, a comfort station complete with a lanai, walking paths, new fencing, a driveway and parking space for roughly 40 vehicles. It also mentions space for a tennis court and basketball court, as well as the possible construction of a playground down the line.
Messina could provide no cost projections and said the project, once ready, will be put out for bid.
By Max Dible West Hawaii Today firstname.lastname@example.org