The selling of Koke‘e

This is to inform the public of the Draft Environmental Impact Statement of the Koke‘e and Waimea Canyon State Parks Master Plan. The proposing agency of this 277-page document is the Division of State Parks, Department of Land and Natural Resources. The approving authority is the Governor of the state of Hawai‘i. It was prepared by a Honolulu consultant group, R. M. Towill Corporation, May 23, 2006.

The stated purpose of this master plan is to guide the management and development of Koke‘e and Waimea Canyon State Parks for a 20-year period, until 2025. The stated goals are to protect, preserve, restore, manage and enhance the natural, cultural, scenic, outdoor and recreational resources, and generate money for the state.

The cost of this plan is projected at $28.3 million and will include the hiring of 28 new personnel. Revenues to support this include: tollgate entry fees; user fees from park tenants, concessionaires and commercial leases; auction of long-term recreational cabin leases; overnight cabin rentals; 40-60 hotel “lodge” rentals; camping, hiking and other daily fees; gathering, hunting and fishing fees; surcharge on rental cars. Revenues from Koke‘e are also intended to support other parks across the state of Hawai‘i.

The major developments will be at the Koke‘e Lodge/museum/park area, known as Kanaloahulululu Meadow, where a 40-60 room hotel “lodge” will be built, along with additional commercial and concession space. These developments will require an estimated 200 new paved parking stalls in and along the meadow and additional paved parking for an unspecified number of full-sized tour busses.

Other proposed improvements include:

• A tollgate building in the middle of the road at the 6.8 mile marker to collect an entry fee to Waimea Canyon and Koke‘e, with hours of entry to the parks “yet to be determined.”

• Redevelopment of the Waimea Canyon Lookout, along with new tourist and concession facilities and additional paved parking.

• Relocation of the Pu’u Hinahina Lookout to the “Secret Bluff” area (which is about 1/2 mile down of Pu‘u Hinahina), paving of the sacred meadow at “Secret Bluff” with 40 new parking stalls, converting the current Pu’u Hinahina Lookout into a trailhead to the Canyon Trail and adding more tourist concession facilities and paved parking.

• Widening and realignment of Koke‘e Road to accommodate full-sized tour busses and more parking to and at the very ends of the road (Kalalau and Pu‘u O Kila lookouts).

• New lookouts with tourist concessions along Waimea Canyon Drive, along with additional paved parking for cars and busses.

More imminent is the scheduled auction this September for the Koke‘e cabin leases. This auction will be worldwide to the highest bidder. It will, essentially, “timeshare” Koke‘e. This is not conjecture; in the 1985 auction, individuals and realtors from Honolulu created huis to collectively bid for shares in the leaseholds. Given the pervasiveness of the Internet and the fact that Kaua‘i has been given the dubious distinction as one of the most desirable places on earth, come September’s auction, Koke‘e cabins are going to be timeshared on a much more organized and sophisticated level.

How is it that the powers and consultants from Honolulu decide and develop a master plan telling us what is best for Koke‘e? How much is it costing for the consultants to develop and promote this outrageous plan? These funds would be better spent improving Koke‘e by protecting, preserving and maintaining the sanctity of what is already there. Truly improve Koke‘e by repairing and maintaining the existing bathrooms and buildings, patching the pukas in the road, controlling the invasive plants and animals. Who and why are the powers that be in Honolulu so hell-bent on paving over paradise to put up more parking lots and buildings until the magic of Koke‘e is lost and gone forever?

• Roy Yamakawa is a resident of Lawa‘i.


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