LIHU‘E — Mayor Bryan J. Baptiste’s plan to use state lands for a regional park at Port Allen should be considered only if activities don’t interfere with Hawaiian salt-making projects, sport activities are not allowed within the project, and careful planning is carried out, residents said during a County Council public hearing on the proposal.
If those concerns are met, and others, the council should give the green light to the proposal, concerned citizens said.
Residents voiced those concerns and others during a public hearing the Kaua‘i County Council conducted at the historic County Building last week.
The subject of the hearing was a bill authorizing a long-term lease with the state to establish the park, an idea first raised by Baptiste for the public’s benefit.
If created, the coastal, regional park would become West Kaua‘i’s first regional park, and would significantly enhance recreational opportunities for West Kaua‘i residents and visitors, county officials have said.
If the park becomes a reality, it would become only the second regional park on the island. The first one Lydgate Park, serving yet another large population area of Kaua‘i, the Kawaihau District.
In addressing the council, Gilbert Nobrega said government leaders should make sure the new park, if it is established, not adversely affect long-standing salt-making activities at the Hanapepe salt pans.
Nobrega, who said he spoke on behalf of the salt-makers from Hanapepe and the Hui Hana Pa‘akai, a group that takes care of the salt beds, said any long-term lease for the park should include these conditions:
• The park should not have any negative impacts on the salt beds, and, if necessary, surrounding areas;
• Members of the Hui Hana Pa‘akai should be included in the planning of the park; Preservation of the salt pans is paramount, he said.
“First of all, the Hanapepe salt ponds is a historic preserve land designation in the state of Hawaii,” Nobrega said in written testimony submitted to the council.
“Nowhere else in Hawai‘i is salt cultivated the way it is done in Hanapepe.” He said the pa‘akai, or the Hawaiian salt from the pans, is not only used in the preparation of food, but has cultural and spiritual importance to kupuna and Native Hawaiians.
Nobrega said the Hui Hana Pa‘akai group has established a relationship with the state Department of Land and Natural Resources in the use of the salt-bed area, but needs to strengthen those ties in the future to ensure the salt-making practices are not impacted in a negative way.
“We all need to be included in the process,” said Nobrega.
In the past, the salt-makers have encountered problems with runoff water entering the pans from other places, and the salt-makers would “like to avoid any problems that could add to the current situation,” he said.
He also recommended restrooms and showers be located as far away as possible from the salt pans.
If not, the water from such facilities could leech into the salt beds, degrading the quality of the salt, he said.
Nobrega has been making salt with his in-laws in the salt beds since 1967.
Preservation of the site should be a top priority of government, echoed Rhode Libre, chairwoman of the Kaua‘i Westside Watershed Council.
Among other recommendations, she suggested the following amendments to the bill:
• No camp sites, sport activities or pavilions should be allowed within the park;
Members of her group will maintain and manage the site;
• The county should dedicate or lease lands around the site of the new drug-rehabilitation center for youths in Hanapepe;
• Commercial recreational ventures should not be allowed in the park.
She also said allowing camping, soccer activities and unmonitored activities within the proposed project runs “contrary to the real desires and long-overdue needs of the regional community.” At the same time, camping, soccer activities and unmonitored activities contribute to the “destructive peddling of Kaua‘i’s cultural treasures,” she said.
If the park becomes a reality, no sport activities should be allowed at the site, due to high winds in the area, recommended Carol T. Kanna.
Because the Port Allen peninsula is extremely windy, thoughtful planning should be employed, she added.
“I envision pavilions, comfort stations, cement tables and benches, trees for windbreaks, street lights, roadways and walkways, grassy play,” Kanna wrote in testimony sent to the council.
She also said Salt Pond Beach Park is used heavily, and picnickers compete with campers for the use of the park.
Because of that situation, she asked whether it would be possible to relocate the existing campsites at Salt Pond Beach Park to someplace within the new park, if it becomes a reality.
• Lester Chang, staff writer, may be reached at 245-3681 (ext. 225) or firstname.lastname@example.org.