Kaua‘i County Councilman Mel Rapozo joined with some residents yesterday in protesting against a Honolulu consultant’s recommendation to extend the county’s coastal pedestrian and bicycle path from Kuhio Highway to Wailua Houselots.
During a council Public Works Committee meeting at the historic County Building, Rapozo said implementation of that proposal by Kimura International would severely disrupt the neighborhood of mostly middle-class families.
“The intent was a lei around the island to protect lateral access to the coast,” not build the Wailua spur, Rapozo said.
Residents want their peace and quiet and having the Wailua spur end at the Wailua Houselots park would be a disservice to the community.
“All the people I talk to about the Eggerking (Road in Wailua Houselots, where parts of the path are proposed to be placed) route are not happy,” said Wailua Houselots resident Michael Fernandes.
County Engineer Donald Fujimoto said past public meetings indicated strong support for the spur, but acknowledged the input may have come only from a minority — those who attended the meetings.
Councilwoman Shaylene Iseri-Carvalho said that was the problem, and that had many longtime residents shown up, the administration would have found the proposed spur was not popular, she said. But those residents couldn’t attend because they work two-to-three jobs, she said.
The exchange occurred during a meeting where government officials gave an update on the proposed 16-mile coastal bicycle and pedestrian pathway from Anahola to Nawiliwili.
The Wailua Houselots spur is a third phase of the coastal portion that runs from Lydgate Park to Kapa‘a, consisting of 2 miles.
Fujimoto said the intent behind such “spurs” running to the mountains was to “reach out to the community,” and to enable residents to enjoy a leisurely walk or ride from their neighborhoods to the coastline.
Longtime Kaua‘i resident Joe Rosa saw it differently, saying the spur would be intrusive.
“Why should it go up to a subdivision?,” Rosa asked during a break in the meeting. “Are you going to condemn land?,” he asked in reference to comments Rapozo made that Eggerking Road could not accommodate a pathway of 10 to 12 feet in width, hinting unwanted condemnation might have to occur.
“Have you folks ever driven on Eggerking Road?,” Kaua‘i resident Wally Iwasaki asked. “When you meet another car coming, you have to get off the road.”
Kane Pa, a kanaka maoli, representing the indigenous people of Hawai‘i, said an off-island consultant developed the recommendation without a full grasp of what Wailua Houselot residents wanted.
“At this point, what is happening with our community is that we don’t really agree with his vision of his plan,” Pa said.
Pa said the vision rests with the community, an assessment Rapozo agreed with.
“Think it would save you a whole bunch of more head problems,” Pa said. “It is a complex issue.”
The consultant has recommended the spur, along with an alignment that would essentially take users from Aloha Beach Resort in Wailua to the Waika‘ea Canal in Kapa‘a.
The two deviations would be the spur, and another mauka pathway to run along the Waipouli Drainage Canal, behind the Waipouli Town Center, to the Uhelekawawa Canal and then back to Kuhio Highway. Ultimately, the users would end up at the canal.
While a minority of people attending the meeting voiced support for the spur, enthusiasm for it probably would have been much less had more longtime residents shown up and given input, said Shaylene Iseri-Carvalho.
Input that counts can’t be measured by just what is given at meetings, she said.
“We really didn’t get … a clear assessment of the support for the project,” she said.
Outright support for it couldn’t have been more untrue, because people have submitted petitions against it, she said.
“The responsibility of council members is to try to get as much opinion as possible from the community,” Iseri-Cavalho said.
Fujimoto said government has to use a process to get as much information as possible out to the public, and if that system doesn’t work, it may need to be changed, he said.
An improved system may include hiring more staffers to run public meetings and to collect comments, or sending out letters to affected residents.
Rapozo said the process “is flawed. It is not a good one.”
Councilman Ron Kouchi said the county administration that boasted proudly about being “community-driven” before making decisions may have reversed itself philosophically.
He said when he ran unsuccessfully for mayor in 2002, he was viewed as a political leader who made decisions from the “top down.”
Mayor Bryan Baptiste, now in his second four-year term, was viewed in the 2002 race as the man of the people, who would go out of his way to get consensus before making a decision affecting the island.
Now, it seems, Kouchi said, the exact opposite is true of Baptiste, that he, in the case of the Wailua spur, is making decisions the broader community neither wants nor welcomes.
In most issues, Baptiste has always sought the majority consensus before making a decision.
Kaua‘i resident Ken Taylor also said the administration’s inability to provide all the answers frustrates him.
“I am as frustrated as you,” Rapozo said. “We (council members who have raised questions about the 16-mile project) are blamed for many of the delays. We are just asking the questions.”
• Lester Chang, staff writer, can be reached at 245-3681 (ext. 225) or email@example.com.