LIHU‘E — Going back at least 10 years, federal dollars and community volunteers helped build the Kaumakani Kai Bridge and more than 30 campsites as part of the expanded Lydgate Park complex. But no one has ever been able to camp there.
The wait for a premier Eastside campsite is almost over. As long as the weather cooperates, Lydgate Park should be open for camping by mid-August, Parks and Recreation Director Lenny Rapozo said at County Council committee meeting Wednesday.
Part of the problem was some design errors that didn’t bring it in compliance with American with Disabilities Act requirements, Councilman Tim Bynum said.
“We’ve reached the point where we’ve done the ADA improvements, we’ve rebuilt the pavilion, we’re in dialogue with the administration,” said Bynum, adding that the county has followed through, fixed all the problems and is moving toward opening the campground.
Three out of the 32 campsites at Lydgate, he said, are now fully compatible with ADA requirements.
Each campsite has a designated camping areas of either 10 feet by 10 feet to accommodate up to five people or 20 feet by 20 feet to accommodate up to 10 people.
Bynum said the design of the facility stemmed from community requests for a campsite in the Eastside that would offer amenities such as enclosed showers, a picnic area, sports fields and barbecues among other things.
Kaua‘i residents don’t pay camping fees at county parks, only at state parks such as Polihale and Koke‘e.
“One issue the consultant told us was that in order to manage the campsite, it was important for the people to get the permits, to have some commitment to actually show up,” Bynum said. “So they strongly suggested we charge a nominal fee.”
Rapozo said the administration agrees with that.
“We do support some fee in order to help better manage the campsite,” he said.
Anini Beach Park is one of the busiest county facilities and due to limited space, the administration often turns down permit requests. But residents who have had their permits denied have complained that there is enough space for more camping, because many people who secure a free permit don’t show up.
“By administering these fees, as a management tool, we won’t have this problem,” said Rapozo, adding that fees would be refundable.
The council’s Public Safety and Environmental Committee unanimously voted to amend the proposed bill to incorporate the camping fees.
If Bill 2149 passes in its current form, residents will pay a $5-per-day fee per campsite. Non-residents will pay a $25-per-day fee per campsite.
The pavilion will be available to residents for $75 per day and to non-residents for $150 per day.
Bynum said the fee is not a money maker, but a management tool. One of the advantages of charging a fee is that if the facility has to be closed down for maintenance, the county just won’t issue permits for the specific dates that work is planned.
Rapozo said the county is not planning to open all the sites at once. The administration will monitor the use and find out what the impacts are.
Despite amending the bill, the committee deferred decision for two weeks on the full bill because of a request from Councilman Mel Rapozo. He said he would like to speak with the Kaua‘i Police Department to find out what they think about the facility as far as security issues.
The bill was first introduced in 2005 and it is the first time council has acted on it since 2009.
• Léo Azambuja, staff writer, can be reached at 245-3681 (ext. 252) or lazambuja@ thegardenisland.com.