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Parker Ranch opens Ala Ohia Road

Kahu Dean Kauka conducts the blessing of Ala Ohia Road as Mayor Billy Kenoi and Brandi Beaudet look on. (Hawaii 24/7 photo by Karin Stanton)

Karin Stanton | Hawaii 24/7 Editor

The long-awaited Ala Ohia Road is now open for vehicles, bicycles, and pedestrians.

Mayor Billy Kenoi joined Parker Ranch officials and trust beneficiaries, and invited guests Tuesday in Waimea to formally open the connector road that bypasses town center.

The one mile road, running along the Mauna Kea side of the Lualai subdivision, links Mamalahoa Highway with an extension of Pukalani Road. Essentially, the road comes out at the Ace Hardware intersection on the eastern end and adjacent to the Parker Ranch rodeo arena on the western end.

“This is going to help relieve traffic through town and improve the traffic flow,” said Brandi Beaudet, Parker Ranch land manager.

Beaudet said he expects minimal impact on Parker Ranch Shopping Center and will improve safety for students at Parker School and Waimea School.

The two-lane thoroughfare features a 10-foot wide multi-purpose corridor for recreational bicyclists, walkers and runners along the town bound side of the road. It is separated from the blacktop by a strip of grass.

Parker Ranch funded the $7 million road project and committed to using only Big Island suppliers and labor. It provided 25 construction jobs.

“This construction project was more challenging than originally anticipated with the discovery of a layer of blue rock that delayed the setting of the dry wells,” Beaudet said. “We found out what the town of Waimea sits on – quite a layer of blue rock.”

The discovery meant the project missed its completion date by six months.

From left: Planning Director Bobby Jean Leithead-Todd; Parks & Recreation Director Bob Fitzgerald; Public Works Director Warren Lee; Deputy Managing Director Wally Lau; Mayor Billy Kenoi and Brandi Beaudet, Parker Ranch, Inc. Land Manager. (Hawaii 24/7 photo by Karin Stanton)

Kenoi acknowledged the benefits the roadway will bring to the community and also expressed his appreciation for the employment opportunities that were provided during the construction of the road.

“Construction of Ala Ohia Road got underway when unemployment was at a peak on Hawaii Island, and this important project helped to get workers in our construction industry back on the job,” Kenoi said.

“We’re building a transportation system across the whole island,” Kenoi said. “It’s baby steps, but this is huge. It improves the flow of traffic, pulls some pressure off the town center and encourages our residents to remain healthy and active by biking and hiking.”

Kenoi said he is very aware of the challenges Big Island drivers face. Each month, Kenoi estimates he logs 3,000-4,000 miles on the road in an effort to stay connected to every community on the island.

“The Big Island is bigger than the states of Delaware and Rhode Island,” he said. “And every community has multiple transportation needs. What Puna needs is different from what Kohala needs.”

Expanding the island’s transportation options is essential to businesses and families, Kenoi said.

“It’s a process of incremental implementation, but every road, every connection we can open is good for our communities and our families,” he said.

People’s Advocacy for Trails Hawaii executive director Laura Dierenfield said the design of the road is ideal.

“It’s what we call a complete street. It’s a road for people. It accommodates not only vehicles, but pedestrians and cyclists of every level,” she said. “I’m really proud of Parker Ranch for getting it done like this.”

To properly christen the road, Kenoi and Dierenfield hopped on their bikes and took a spin.

Mayor Billy Kenoi and Laura Dierenfield test the blacktop. (Hawaii 24/7 photo by Karin Stanton)

Beaudet said the name highlights the history of the area, as the fields used to be covered with ohia trees and their colorful blossoms.

Parker Ranch, Inc. co-chairman Pete Moynahan said “Ala Ohia Road marks the beginning of a new path that connects our community and fulfills the vision of Richard Smart.”

A connector road at Parker Ranch was part of a vision of sixth-generation Parker descendant and last owner of Parker Ranch, Richard Smart. Smart conceptualized what he called the Parker Ranch 2020 plan.

The plan’s intent is to set aside sufficient lands to allow for uncongested growth and community development. Planning for growth, he felt, would allow the Waimea community to maintain its rural “village” character yet provide for future business, employment and housing.

Parker Ranch, Inc. is a cattle ranch known for quality beef, producing 10 million pounds of beef each year and ranking as the fifth largest cow-calf operation in the United States.

Visitors may enjoy parts of the ranch through horseback riding tours offered by Cowboys of Hawaii, LLC. A hunting program is also offered within controlled areas of the vast ranch.

Sixth generation Richard Kaleioku Palmer Parker Smart placed the ranch in a trust prior to his death in 1992 to benefit four Waimea-based organizations with a focus towards health care, education and charitable support; Hawaii Preparatory Academy, Parker School Trust Corporation, North Hawaii Community Hospital and the Richard Smart Fund of the Hawaii Community Foundation.

Through 2009, nearly $15 million in cash and land has been distributed to these beneficiaries.

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(Hawaii 24/7 photo by Karin Stanton)

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