LIHU’E — Before Kaua’i County leaders set up the island’s first fee-based camping at Lydgate Park, sufficient security efforts have to be undertaken to halt or control drug deals at the park, Kaua’i County Councilman Mel Rapozo told his colleagues at a council meeting last week.
Some owners at the Kaha Lani condominium by Lydgate Park contend parts of the park have become refuges for drug dealings, he said.
Without sufficient security, campers and others using the park could find themselves victims of crime, Rapozo said at a meeting of the council’s Community Assistance Committee held in the council chambers on the second floor of the historic County Building.
“They talk about the problems I think that we all are aware of down at Lydgate,” Rapozo said. “There is a definite problem down there right now, without the camping.”
At the same meeting, Thomas Noyes, the general coordinator of the Friends of Kamalani and Lydgate Park, told council members the project has merit, and will benefit future generations of Kauaians.
Members of the full council are reviewing legislation that would establish rules and a fee structure for the 31-campsite project.
Before the start of last week’s meeting, Rapozo said he had received a letter from a representative of a company who owns some dwelling units at the Kaha Lani condominium project.
The letter-writer, Rapozo said, noted that, although the park is geared for families and children, the area is “becoming a refuge for drug dealers.”
Leaders with the company or the business asked that county leaders give “its (their) immediate attention to this issue of drug-dealers,” Rapozo reported.
But Noyes said support for the campground project has come from folks at the Kaha Lani condominium project and the leaders at the Aloha Beach Resort-Kauai, which is located mauka of the northern portion of Lydgate Park.
Rapozo noted, however, that one morning recently he went down to the Kamalani Kai Bridge area, near where the campgrounds are located.
He said he took some pictures, “and it is not a pretty sight,” suggesting beer cans and liquor bottles may have been strewn about, along with drug-use paraphernalia.
Bernard Carvalho, who heads the county Offices of Community Assistance, said a security program will be in place when the campground opens.
County park caretakers would monitor activities at the campground, and will check to see whether campers have permits until 8 p.m.
The work schedules for the caretakers are being revised to allow them to work on weekends, Carvalho said.
After the caretakers finish up their work at 8 p.m., county rangers would be on hand to provide security, Carvalho reported.
And Kaua’i Police Department police officers also can be used as a “backup” to provide security for the park, Carvalho said.
Assistant Chief Clayton Arinaga of the KPD’s Patrol Services Bureau said he anticipates more police calls with more campers in the area, but that the situation is controllable.
That is because past incidents at the park have been small when compared to those in other parts of the island, Arinaga said.
When KPD has a full staff aboard, or close to it, a new beat will be created for the Wailua and Lihu’e section, and the additional officers could help with security at Lydgate Park, Arinaga said.
Rapozo questioned whether a proposal to impose “quiet time” at the campgrounds at 9:30 p.m. can work.
“Let’s say at 10:30 (p.m.), there is a bunch of campers having some beer and enjoying their camping time,” Rapozo said. “What is going to happen? Is the police going to have to respond down there?”
Rapozo said that the ordinance doesn’t say, “you have to be quiet after 9:30 (p.m.).”
Rapozo, a retired police officer, said it has been his expedience that officers respond to a noise complaint, go to the scene, tell noisy folks to be quiet, and find the noisy situation starts up again after they have left.
“It is a nice thing to have a quiet campground,” Rapozo said. “I am starting to feel like (Glenn) Mickens, you know. When you start bringing up these concerns, people say you are negative. This is just being a realist.”
Glenn Mickens, a government watchdog and a one-time volunteer at the park, has said drug use in the park poses a danger to all park users.
Arinaga said the officers responding to noise complaints, essentially a disorderly-conduct infraction, will warn noisy folks, and can cite them if the warnings fall on deaf ears.
Councilwoman Shaylene Iseri-Carvalho, a former county prosecutor, said witnesses have to come forward in order for a disorderly-conduct infraction to stick.
Mickens wondered whether the campground project should be a priority, and if it is, how much will it cost to operate it.
“And the two most important questions we have to ask is ‘do we have the funds to move it forward?’ and ‘will the project benefit and be needed by the masses of people, and not by a select few?'” Mickens said in testimony sent to the council.
Mickens said the park is crowded now, and that the “carrying capacity” of the park will be overwhelmed with the official opening of the campground.
Mickens said a better idea for the campsite project would be to have it set up as a shelter for the homeless.
Tim Bynum, founder of the Friends of Kamalani and Lydgate Park, a one-time county community-response specialist and now executive director of Leadership Kaua’i, said Mickens’ idea has no merit.
Bynum said the homeless would be better served at a shelter planned to built by the county Department of Water building in Lihu’e.
A homeless shelter at Lydgate Park would not work because services homeless folks need are located in Lihu’e, where the planned shelter is to be built, Bynum said.
“I don’t believe the site (the campground) is appropriate” for a homeless shelter, Bynum said before the council committee meeting on the campground project started. “The administration is working on a shelter for the homeless.”
The campground is part of a master plan for Lydgate Park, calling for the building of 31 campsites, including three raised campsites that are in compliance with the federal Americans with Disabilities Act.
Twenty-seven of the campsites will have tables, a pad for a tent and a barbecue, and can accommodate up to five people for each 10-foot-by-10-foot site, and 10 people for each 20-foot-by-20-foot site.
In addition, a large camp site will be able to accommodate up to 200 campers.
In all, the campground could accommodate a maximum of 400 campers.
Noyes said that it is his belief that county leaders could control the number of campers using the campground by limiting the number of permits issued.
Because the ordinance calls for the use of 31 campsites, all of them have to be used, thus eliminating the option of reducing the number of folks able to use the campground, Rapozo said.
Plans also call for a $5-per-day assessment for state residents for an individual campsite, a $75-per-day assessment for a group camping site for residents, a $25-per-day assessment for a campsite for non-residents, and a $150-per-day assessment for a group-camping site for non-residents.
Bynum said that, while some people might be surprised by the news of the planned opening of the campground, the project has been in the works for six years before it was built out in 2004.
“The idea for the camp-ground has been before the council several times,” he said. Volunteers at a booth at the Kauai County Farm Bureau Fair held at Vidinha Stadium this year exhibited the master plan, which includes the camp-ground, a 2.5-mile bicycle and pedestrian path, a new pavilion, and landscaping.
He said members of the council in January 2004 debated over and approved capital funds to help build the campground, that a master plan done in 1999 shows the existence of the campground, and that an environmental assessment was done in 2001 for the campground, three proposed sports fields and the bicycle and pedestrian path.
The entire master plan is being developed with some $5 million in government and private funds, Bynum said.
Noyes said the campground, which has been supported by many residents, is an evolving piece of the master plan, and that members of the Friends of Kamalani and Lydgate Park and thousands of volunteers played an important role in bringing the entire Kamalani project to the point where it stands today.
With government help at times, the volunteers built the playground, restored the use of a comfort station, cleared vegetation of areas where debris had accumulated for years, built the Kamalani Kai Bridge, and have moved the master plan along, Noyes said.
- Lester Chang, staff writer, may be reached at 245-3681 (ext. 225) or firstname.lastname@example.org