WAIMEA — The Waimea Theatre was filled to the brim with community members on Thursday. More than 200 people showed up to check out the West Kauai Community Plan’s progress and provide input.
The plan encompasses Eleele, Port Allen, Hanapepe, Kaumakani, Pakala, Waimea and Kekaha, along with the 417 acres of land in Waimea recently purchased by the county. It was created as an attempt to get the community’s input regarding future growth and change.
Launched in 2018, the plan is currently in the “development” phase, which includes an open house series that presents a “discussion draft” and are hosted by the county Planning Department. Over the next several weeks, community members are invited to attend the events and check out the culmination of a year’s worth of ideas suggested by participants via workshops and small gatherings. The open houses also offer an opportunity to express opinions about the draft and to present more ideas.
“It’s an important step,” said Marie Williams of the Planning Department at Thursday’s open house.
After feedback from the community is taken, the department will review comments and “make sure they are on track,” she said.
If not, they will continue to connect with the community and find consensus while, at the same time, aligning with other factors like how to deal with sea-level rise, protecting heritage sites and resources, as well as stimulating economic development, she said.
One thing’s for sure, ‘E‘elekoa Emery, 14, knows he would like to have a place where skateboarders can recreate on the Westside. In fact, the open house was his introduction to community activism, and he was excited to be there to participate and offer his comments, said his grandmother, Napua Romo.
“It’s an individual sport and you just push yourself,” said Emery when asked why he liked the activity and why he hoped for a skate park in his neighborhood.
Suzie Woolway, who is a speech therapist and administrator with Ohana Home Health agency, was also at the open house. She works with geriatric patients and was there to suggest an exercise park for the elderly.
“We have kids parks to get them out and active,” she said.
We should have a place where older generations can “play” outside too, she said.
Ruby Pap with the University of Hawaii’s Sea Grant College Program was also in attendance. She is conducting a parallel study to the plan called the West Kauai Community Vulnerability Assessment. The draft was recently released after more than a year of determining the kind of impacts that rising sea levels could have on coastal communities like those on the Westside.
Adaptations will need to be made to roadways, wastewater treatment facilities and cultural infrastructure, and there will have to be a shift towards thinking about hazards and future development, she said.
“The problem is some of these areas are already vulnerable, and that’s what their plan is attempting to do — look at alternatives and put policies in place,” she said.
Policies that would include, for instance, making sure structures are located in elevated areas, Pap said.
The next meetings will be from 4 to 7 p.m. on Monday, Sept. 9, at Kekaha Neighborhood Center, and Monday, Sept. 23 at Hanapepe Hawaiian Congregational Church, and 9 a.m. to noon Saturday, Sept. 28, at the Kaumakani Neighborhood Center’s mauka sports pavilion. Free meals will be provided. The discussion draft is available for review online at westkauaiplan.org, and comments can be submitted until Oct. 7.
Coco Zickos, county reporter, can be reached at 245-0424 or firstname.lastname@example.org.