‘Open Spaces’ presents priorities

LIHU‘E — The county’s Open Spaces Commission has recommended its top priorities for county property acquisitions.

The commission identified three top properties, while Kaua‘i County Council members complained of insufficient information in the commission’s report.

“The recommendations … include Salt Pond Park expansion, mauka and west, and a buffer area for protection of Hanapepe Salt Pans,” Commissioner Tessie Kinnaman said. “It includes the proposed Piwai recreation area in the Koloa District and Kaneiolouma Heiau Complex Preservation Area expansion.”

The Piwai area is in ‘Oma‘o, and is used as a track for recreational vehicles including motorcycles, all-terrain vehicles and mountain bikes, she said.

“The acquisition of this land will allow these recreational uses to continue in a safe and environmentally compatible manner with stewardship opportunities,” Kinnaman said.

The proposed expansion of the Kaneiolouma Heiau complex — a site that dates back to the 1400s — targets a parcel of land across the street from Po‘ipu Beach Park, more specifically the location of Nukumoi Surf Shop. The parcel is immediately adjacent to county-owned and county-managed state lands, which also incorporate the heiau complex.

Kinnaman said the county should also consider additional strategies for public access to Kukui‘ula Bay through the former Hoban property; the restoration and expansion of the shoreline access from Lawa‘i Kai to Port Allen; Kauapea (Secret) Beach access and other unresolved public access issues.

Commission Chair Joseph Figaroa said 120 people attended three public meetings to receive public input in 2011. The commission also received 26 responses from a survey that produced suggestions for 20 places on Kaua‘i, he said.

Commissioners took the opportunity to tell council members how they felt about the result of former recommendations.

“The commission was frustrated that since 2005 … only one property was acquired, in spite of 59 site recommendations for 30 properties being submitted to the council and to the mayor,” said Commissioner Jean Souza, referring to a beachfront parcel adjacent to Black Pot Beach Park, recently acquired by the county.

She did acknowledge, however, that in the last six weeks the council has been “quite receptive” to using a dossier process to focus on getting specific approvals to pursue a plan to implement recommendations.

“The commission has been frustrated since 2005 with pretty much the Planning Department’s failure to address some unresolved access issues,” said Souza, adding that with the commission’s expanded roles provided by Ordinance 925, those issues can be addressed.

Missing information

Some council members questioned the commission about information not provided on the list, including acreage of the properties suggested and a prioritization process.

“I’m not sure of the acreage you are proposing; I’m not sure that even you are sure,” Council Vice Chair JoAnn Yukimura told commissioners, referring to the proposal to acquire property to expand Salt Pond Beach Park.

“If you want this property to be acquired, we need a package before you come to us,” Yukimura said.

Yukimura was particularly interested in the reason why expansions of Black Pot Beach Park in Hanalei and the Po‘ipu Beach Park parking lot were absent in this year’s list. If the commission does not recommend these properties, they will likely not be acquired, she said.

Figaroa said those properties have already been recommended in previous years, but no action has been taken.

Souza said the commission this year decided to prioritize those three properties because they represent the most realistic proposals.

Council Chair Jay Furfaro said that “obviously” there are some details that need to be worked out.

“But in concert with Councilwoman Yukimura, if it’s not on the list, it gets dropped out,” he said.

Yukimura also questioned the list’s reflection of the desires of the community.

“Does your list represent the public’s priorities?” she said. “You need a set of criteria to judge that.”

History

The Public Access, Open Space and Natural Resources Preservation Fund was established by a Kaua‘i County Charter amendment approved by Kaua‘i voters on Nov. 5, 2002.

The fund accrues .5 percent of Kaua‘i’s annual property tax collections each year. The fund can only be used to acquire properties for specific purposes, including conservation of cultural and historic sites, habitat protection and improvement of access to beaches and mountains.

The fund’s balance is currently at $1.55 million, according to Figaroa.

On Dec. 8, 2003, the Kaua‘i County Council passed Ordinance 812, which established a fund advisory commission to solicit public input and develop a list of priority projects to be considered for funding.

In September 2004 the nine-member Public Access, Open Space and Natural Resources Preservation Commission, known as the Open Spaces Commission, was officially formed. In 2005 it presented its first report to the mayor and to the council.

The council appoints four commission members, the mayor appoints another four, and the commission appoints a ninth member.

Kalaheo resident Pat Gegen was the latest appointee to join the commission. He was sworn in on Thursday, filling the only vacancy. But on May 1, Kinnaman and Souza will retire. They are the last remaining original members of the commission.

Visit www.kauai.gov for more information.

• Léo Azambuja, staff writer, can be reached at 245-3681 (ext. 252) or lazambuja@ thegardenisland.com.

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