HANALEI — County officials and residents have been assured the Black Pot Beach Park Master Plan is not set in stone, after the Namolokama Canoe Club raised objection to the potential demolition of the old Hanalei Canoe Club buildings near the park.
Namolokama, which leases private property adjacent to the abandoned hale, wants to acquire stewardship of the site or fund the building of a new hale on nearby park land. The club’s members and supporters fear the Black Pot master plan precludes these possibilities, should they lose their current lease.
“We’re shown on every map up until the current map. This current version is vague at best,” the club’s Hobey Beck said Wednesday when testifying before the County Council. “This has been very surprising and disheartening for me.”
Beck argued canoe clubs enhance public spaces by offering family-friendly activities and discouraging drug use, adding there is no guarantee Namolokama may stay at its current location surrounded by Black Pot Beach Park.
“Ideally, moving next door to the old canoe hale is preferred, as it guarantees good river access, existing boundaries, protects the riverfront for families and provides a buffer for their safety,” Beck said. “The area was chosen nearly 50 years ago as the proper spot for a canoe hale.”
Representatives of HHF Planning, the consultants behind the master plan, addressed the Namolokama Canoe Club’s concerns and answered questions from councilmembers in an hours-long briefing following Beck and others’ testimonies.
According to HHF Vice President Scott Ezer, the old Hanalei Canoe Club’s dilapidated condition and location within a floodway make restoration or replacement highly unlikely, due to regulatory issues.
Ezer also noted a structural engineering analysis of the hale and its relation to the area floodway took place sometime in 2019 or 2020, and the master plan’s current treatment of the building was available to the public last winter.
“The draft plan, to say it occurred at the last minute (is) not completely accurate, because the virtual open house, which was held in February of this year, included what you saw today,” Ezer said. “We didn’t undo the curtain before we submitted this to the council, and all of a sudden it appeared. That plan was up for public comment for 30 days, and we didn’t get the public pushback that you are seeing today.”
Ezer and other HHF planners said the master plan is a preliminary step and not intended to address specifics, claiming it does not preempt the possibility of saving the old Hanalei Canoe Club buildings, when pressed by councilmembers for next steps.
“Where the rubber hits the road is when you put documents out to bid for construction and what things are really going to look like,” Ezer said, noting an environmental assessment has yet to occur. “You’ve got a long way to go before you’re shovel-ready.”
Council Chair Arryl Kaneshiro and most councilmembers expressed general approval with the Black Pot Beach Park Master Plan, with the understanding questions surrounding the old Hanalei Canoe Club buildings will be resolved with future public input.
Councilmember Felicia Cowden dissented, alleging the six-year-long planning process did not provide sufficient access to community stakeholders.
“This is a 20,000, 30,000-foot discussion. I think moving forward, the community is going to be very involved in what happens, how this plan is implemented, what is actually going to be on the ground and done at the ground-level on this plan,” Kaneshiro said.
“I don’t want anyone to feel like, ‘Oh, this plan is done and we have no say in this plan anymore.’ That is very far from the truth,” said Kaneshiro.
Scott Yunker, reporter, can be reached at 245-0437 or email@example.com.