Baptiste wants to turn Salt Pond into Westside’s regional park

LIHU‘E — When Kaua‘i County officials began updating the Kaua‘i

General Plan in the 1990s, residents in droves talked about having Salt

Pond Beach Park in Hanapepe become a regional park.

Members of his administration are working to make that wish come true,

Mayor Bryan J. Baptiste said earlier this week.

In a meeting with reporters at the Lihu‘e Civic Center, Baptiste

announced that he and other administration officials have talked with

state Department of Transportation Airports Division officials about use

of 67 acres of stateowned land makai of the Port Allen Airport (Burns

Field) for recreational use by residents.

The discussions have resulted in a decision by state DOT-Airports

leaders to offer the 67-acre peninsula to county leaders for

recreational purposes, Baptiste said.

Fishermen have used the coastline for fishing for generations, and the

plan, when implemented, will allow more folks to use the land for

recreational activities, he said.

The plan marches in step with Baptiste’s plans to build another regional

park to enhance recreational opportunities for residents and visitors.

Plans to create the island’s first regional park at Lydgate Park in

Wailua took form in the early-to-mid-1990s, when members of the

administrations of former Mayor JoAnn Yukimura and Mayor Maryanne Kusaka

were in power.

The Lydgate Park plan involved the development of Kamalani Playground,

and, more recently, the creation of one leg of a 16-mile, coastal

bicycle path along the shoreline of East Kaua‘i.

The Lydgate Park regional-park plan also includes the planned

establishment of paid camping areas and facilities, and proposed

construction of three, multipurpose athletic fields one day.

Another regional park is planned some day for 11 acres located mauka of

the Kapa‘a Neighborhood Center, Baptiste said. “It would be done

through an executive order (by Gov. Linda Lingle),” with Lingle signing

over the land to the county, sometimes in exchange for county land

elsewhere, he said.

Another such park is planned some place in Kilauea, but it is only “a

vision” right now, Baptiste said.

“I am pleased that we are looking at fulfilling a dream of the Westside

community to expand their recreational opportunities,” Baptiste said of

the planned regional park by the Salt Pond Beach Park.

The new regional park will officially open when the Kaua‘i County

Council approves the lease worked out between county and DOT-Airports

leaders, Baptiste said.

The proposed, 65-year lease calls for county leaders to pay a “minimal

monthly” fee of $25 for use of the land, “plus taxes and

assessments,” Baptiste said.

Diminished use of the DOT-Airports-managed Port Allen Airport, also

known as Burns Field, has occurred in recent years, encouraging DOT-

Airports officials to go along with the park plan, Baptiste said.

“We’ve got the land. It makes perfect sense for us to allow the county

to use it for recreational purposes,” state DOT Director Rodney “Rod”

Haraga. “Mayor Baptiste took the initiative to approach us with the

idea, and we’re working with the county to make it happen.”

Adding the Port Allan parcel to the county’s parks system would be a

boon for the Westside of Kaua‘i, said Mel Nishihara, parks administrator

for the county’s Department of Public Works and a Westside native.

“There are so many possibilities for the 67.34 acres,” Nishihara said.

“And if you combine this with county-owned parcels in the area, the

whole place could become like Ala Moana or Kapi‘olani Park on O‘ahu.”

Among the increased activities Baptiste says could take place in the

regional park are picnicking, camping and fishing. Soccer is another

possibility, Baptiste added.

Baptiste said “passive ideas,” like walking trails, and “grassy areas

for soccer,” have been brought up by residents.

Baptiste said residents will be asked what they would like to see at the

park before anything is approved. “There is great potential for

expanding recreational opportunities in the Salt Pond/Port Allen Airport

area,” Baptiste said. “And when we start the planning process, we will

definitely ask the community what kinds of activities they would like to

have here.”

Any activities that are approved must not adversely affect the Hawaiian

salt pans located by the airport, he said.

Although the salt beds are not included in the proposed lease, their

preservation is paramount, Baptiste said.

County Engineer Donald Fujimoto, who attended the meeting, said that,

more than likely, “we will have to hire more people to maintain it (the

new park).” The question of whether the county has enough manpower and

resources to maintain existing parks has come up frequently at meetings

of the Kaua‘i County Council. Wailua Homesteads resident Glenn Mickens

has led the charge on that matter at County Council meetings.

Councilman Mel Rapozo said he would like to see the establishment of

more county parks benefiting residents.

But, at the same time, he contends, county leaders must have the

funding, proper resources and manpower to maintain existing parks and

new parks.

The new park, if approved and developed, would tie in with existing

recreational facilities in the area, Baptiste said.

Bordering Burns Field at its northwest corner is Salt Pond Beach Park, a

popular destination for both residents and visitors for picnicking,

camping and parties, Baptiste said.

About 1/8 mile east of the airport is the Hanapepe Stadium complex,

where a variety of sporting events is held, including baseball,

football, soccer and tennis, he said.

Located right next to the stadium is the Hanapepe Recreation Center,

where senior citizens enjoy a host of activities and residents hold

birthday, graduation and wedding parties, Baptiste said.

The new park would be located near the Kaua‘i County DPW Hanapepe

baseyard, the center of operations for the beautification and

maintenance crew for the Westside of Kaua‘i, Baptiste said.

  • Lester Chang, staff writer, may be reached at 245-3681 (ext.

225) or lchang@kauaipubco.com

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