Tourism consultant says Kaua’i parks should be privatized

LIHU’E – A consultant hired by the state to perform an infrastructure and environmental assessment of Kaua’i has recommended privatization of island parks for the purposes of maintenance, operations and concessions.

Now, the county and state own and operate most of the island’s public park lands.

Carter & Burgess, a consulting company hired by the state Department of Business, Economic Development & Tourism to carry out research in conjunction with a statewide study of tourism impacts, has several other recommendations:

– The island’s water system is in poor condition, and needs upgrades as recommended in the county Department of Water’s Water Plan 2020;

– The island’s sewage treatment system needs review;

– There are landfill issues that need to be addressed;

– A master plan is needed for stormwater runoff;

– Road improvements are needed;

– Airports and harbors should be enlarged to accommodate demand, and organized for efficiency, and present opportunities to project and enhance local culture and business;

– An energy master plan should be developed;

– Marine life conservation districts should be established.

The information was outlined during a public meeting on the ongoing Hawai’i Tourism Study, Sustainable Tourism in Hawai’i, which drew over 40 people to the Kauai High School cafeteria Monday night.

DBEDT is undertaking the study to better understand the impacts of tourism growth. It is the department leaders’ desire to help policy makers, the industry and community maximize positive effects and minimize negative consequences of growth and other changes in Hawai’i tourism.

The study will examine the impact of visitors on the economy, the natural environment, the cultural fabric of the residents, and the state’s physical infrastructure (highways, harbors, parks, etc.), according to the study Web site, www.hawaiitourismstudy.com.

A major goal is to develop a measurement, analysis and planning tool for the state, to ensure that the quality of life of residents, as well as the quality of the visitor experience, both remain high as time goes on.

The Web site is set up to receive public input.

At the Lihu’e session, representatives of DBEDT and various contractors hired to handle different parts of the three-pronged study outlined work to date, and plans for continued work moving forward.

The next Kaua’i public meeting will be held in the summer of next year.

One speaker talked about a “triple bottom line,” to examine environmental, social and economic impacts of tourism growth, seeking a “sweet spot” to effectively balance all three needs.

Dr. Pearl Imada Iboshi, of DBEDT, said the goal is to come up with a tool that will allow the state to manage tourism so as to sustain the environment.

Studies examining impacts of tourism in Hawai’i have been proposed since the 1970s and 1980s, she said. The idea is to ensure that as tourism grows the environment is not impacted in a negative way, she added.

The plan is not necessarily aiming to come up with an answer, but with a tool that can be used to gauge impacts of tourism as the state moves into the future.

For example, today one in eight people on Kaua’i are visitors. By 2025, one in four are projected to be visitors. If those projections are “real,” or likely to occur, does the island have the rooms, roads, parks, water, and other amenities necessary to accommodate that growth?

Baseline data, or information on current conditions, will be used to begin a roadmap for where Kaua’i wants to be, what’s needed to get there, and other information, all with ample opportunities for public input and involvement along the way, organizers said.

Several simulations will look at possible scenarios, including growth in visitor and resident populations, declines in visitor and resident populations, variations in either, how public policy decisions could impact the future, and other models, all to simulate visitor impacts on the environment, said Dr. Karl Kim of the University of Hawaii.

Alternative futures will be modeled, and potential environmental “trouble spots” identified, he said.

Currently, an 83 percent growth in visitor arrivals is projected between now and 2025 on Kaua’i, and the number of visitor accommodation units required to increase by 54 percent over the same period.

As a third component of the study is collecting public input, much of the remainder of the meeting was devoted to public comment, with those in attendance asked to discuss what’s working correctly, what’s not working right, what can be done to make the industry sustainable, what the definition of “sustainability” is, and what’s the right mix for Kaua’i, among other questions.

Don Heacock, an aquatic biologist with the state Department of Land and Natural Resources Division of Aquatic Resources, said any definition of “sustainability” must take into account protection of natural resources, as covered in the state Constitution; and that the island and people born here must be priorities.

The United Nations defines “sustainable development” as any development, so long as it protects ecosystem integrity, protects economic efficiency, and is socially equitable, he said.

Dr. Gary Blaich of Kilauea said he’d like to see studies on how various tourism-sustainability models impact local housing costs.

Rob Culbertson said open coastal lands are treasures, and should be protected as such.

Julie Yukimura said if the island loses its uniqueness, it will lose its economic health.

“I don’t think this island can take too many visitors,” because the infrastructure won’t allow it, said Sue Kanoho, executive director of the Kaua’i Visitors Bureau.

The culture and environment are important especially to the island’s returning visitors, said Lynn McCrory.

Charles Cobb-Adams said the island’s coastal and interior trails, mostly on land owned by the state, are in dismal shape.

Kamika Smith said the State Parks system as a whole is not working.

There is no balance between what’s being spent for tourism promotion and what’s being spent for trail maintenance and other product enhancement, Blaich said.

Public transportation that actually serves the public, as well as the visiting public, would have a positive impact on both roadway congestion, visitor satisfaction, and the island’s environment, several speakers concurred.

Answers to the problems of maintenance of State Parks trails could be installation of user fees, effective lobbying for funds from the state Legislature, escalated volunteer efforts, or a combination of those, said McCrory.

The visitor industry has an obligation to educate visitors, and education of visitors is necessary to maintain the island, said McCrory, Kaua’i member of the state Board of Land and Natural Resources.

Staff Writer Paul C. Curtis can be reached at mailto:pcurtis@pulitzer.net or 245-3681 (ext. 224).

0 Comments

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

*

By participating in online discussions you acknowledge that you have agreed to the TERMS OF SERVICE. An insightful discussion of ideas and viewpoints is encouraged, but comments must be civil and in good taste, with no personal attacks. If your comments are inappropriate, you may be banned from posting. To report comments that you believe do not follow our guidelines, send us an email.