NAWILIWILI — The Kaua‘i County Council’s Parks and Recreation Committee on Wednesday deferred for at least two more weeks its decision on a bill that would allow camping at Lydgate Park.
Campsites at the popular Wailua park were built years ago with taxpayers’ money and volunteers’ sweat.
The committee’s decision pushes back at least another three weeks the campground’s opening, bursting a deadline that Parks and Recreation Director Lenny Rapozo on June 29 had set for mid-August.
Councilwoman Nadine Nakamura said Rapozo, who was off-island on vacation Wednesday, had asked the council to give the Parks and Recreation Department 60 days to come up with rules for the area.
Council members were split on many of the issues still pending regarding the campsites.
“I don’t think that’s necessary (to delay the park’s opening),” Councilman Tim Bynum said. “But hey, if I waited six years I can wait 60 days.”
Councilman Mel Rapozo said he’s is not against camping, but he didn’t think the campgrounds should open just yet.
“I think we should only open up when we provide the resources,” he said.
Issues pertaining to sufficient amenities and job descriptions — still in discussion between union representatives and the administration — compounded an apparent work overload mentioned by at least one county employee.
“It’s not good when we become the sounding board about operational staffing guides,” Council Chair Jay Furfaro said.
The majority of the park workers come in at 5 a.m. and leave at 1:30 p.m. A lone worker comes in from 9:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. But the bulk of the work, Furfaro said, seems to be in the afternoon after park users have lunch.
Despite the addition of the campsites to be maintained by county workers, the parks director told the council a few weeks ago that the administration had no plans to increase the staff at Lydgate.
Parks and Recreation Deputy Director Ian Costa said, as far as staffing, the administration intends to open only 13 of the 31 campsites. The administration has said it would open the campsites gradually in increments.
“When you look at the overall parks on Kaua‘i, Lydgate Park has a dedicated staff more than any other park,” he said.
Councilman Rapozo said the park may have the largest staff, but also has the heaviest use of all county parks.
“Maybe manpower works now, and maybe it might during this transition period,” Nakamura said. “But at some point if we’re going to run it like a hotel, if we want to have a high level of maintenance, then we are going to have to look at a different manpower scenario.”
She said she would like to see that the administration is thinking about this now rather than in a couple of years, when there would be a great demand for the campsites.
Councilwoman JoAnn Yukimura, like Bynum, felt the work at the committee level was done and wanted to move the bill to full council. She said there were a lot of management tools that had been worked on, and staffing is something that the administration can address.
Enforcing was also an issue.
Costa told councilmembers that park rangers usually don’t issue tickets to those camping without a permit at county parks; instead, they usually issue a permit on the spot provided there is available room.
A citation could cost illegal campers up to $100, plus a trip to the courthouse to face the judge.
The biggest chunk of Wednesday’s discussion circled around the availability of enough public restrooms.
A private consultant years ago stated that one bathroom was necessary for each increment of 750 people.
The state Department of Health, however, has stricter guidelines calling for one bathroom for every 300 people, and those are the guidelines that the council adopted years ago, according to Furfaro.
The campground, if completely open, allows for a maximum of approximately 250 campers divided in 31 campsites, plus another potential 250 to 300 pavilion users on a given day.
Furfaro said large parties renting the pavilion could be required to bring portable toilets, until the administration expands the already-built bathrooms or builds new ones.
Costa said the DOH has no set guidelines for campgrounds; those guidelines the council was using referred to DOH standards for amusement parks or events.
“Whether you’re outdoors or if you’re in an auditorium, the number of times you probably have to relieve yourself is the same,” Furfaro said.
The toilet issue continued for quite some time.
“Like Mr. Chair said, one of the things we can’t control is your bodily functions,” Councilman Rapozo said. “I’d much rather use the toilet than the bushes, and I want to make sure we are ready when we open up the gates.”
Councilman KipuKai Kuali‘i followed along those lines, saying that the administration needs to provide a basic level of service to the public.
“That’s not too much to ask for, a decent place to relieve yourself when you have to,” he said.
Councilman Dickie Chang also brought the issue of not enough lighting. “It’s got to be convenient and it’s got to be safe,” he said.
Chang’s words resurrected the perennial issue in county business of endangered or threatened birds versus lighting. If the area is provided with lighting to improve security, it could also endanger native birds.
With so many issues on the table, some members of the committee felt those issues should be dealt with by the administration before sending the bill to full council. The five-member committee voted unanimously to defer its decision to its next committee meeting, Aug. 24.
If the bill passes committee, it will go to full council for approval. The bill was first introduced in 2005. June 29, when the bill was amended to include maintenance fees, marked the first time the issue has been heard since 2009.
Despite Parks Director Rapozo saying the campsites would be ready by mid-August, the bill has been repeatedly deferred by the committee members, who have said the administration is not ready to open the campground.
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• Léo Azambuja, staff writer, can be reached at 245-3681 (ext. 252) or lazambuja@ thegardenisland.com.