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Kealakehe Regional Park unveiled, hurdles to conquer

Roya Sabri | Hawaii 24/7 Reporter

Kimura International unveiled the 193-acre Kealakehe Regional Park master plan at a public meeting Tuesday in Kona. A year and $275,000 in the making, the plan was chosen from three alternatives proposed to the public at its November 2012 charrette.

KealakeheParkFinalPlanIn the north, the plan places a soccer complex, football stadium, basketball center three-courts wide, driving range and grass slide. To the south, the plan includes a dog park, tennis complex, six-field baseball complex, archery range, and leasable community gardens.

A central “great lawn” with an amphitheater at one end and play fountains at the other pulls the park together. Miles of bike and walking paths run through the site.

The initial idea for the sports complex was conceived in 1985. In 1990, the Hawaii Housing Finance and Development Corporation proposed an 18-hole golf course and effluent disposable area instead. That plan fell through.

In January 2011, the governor gave impetus for the regional park when he signed Executive Order 4355 that allotted land in the Kealakehe ahupuaa. The county commissioned Kimura International to construct a Master Plan in 2012.

Glenn Kimura, president of Kimura International, described four phases for construction of the project. Phase one will include the tennis complex and covered basketball complexes — those features near the road. But before the firm can date the start of construction, it needs to secure funds for the almost $90 million estimated cost for construction.

The project’s next step is to prepare an Environmental Impact Assessment. In the meantime the West Hawaii Parks and Athletic Coporation (WHIPAC) — involved in planning the Kealakehe Regional Park — is stepping up to swing at a curve ball from the Fish and Wildlife Service, Kimura said.

In October 2012, F&W proposed critical habitats for three endemic endangered plant species endemic to Hawaii: Bidens campylotheca (ko’oko’olau), Caesalpinia kavaiensis (uhiuhi) and Isodendrion pyrifolium (Wahine noho kula).

The Regional Park sits entirely within the area 35 proposed critical habitat.

The purpose of the proposed 18,766 acres of critical habitat is to protect the historical range of the species. These are not necessarily sites where the species currently live; they are sites the species may eventually repopulate. Federally related projects within critical habitats must go through a consultation process with the F&W.

If after an informal consultation the service determines the action may affect the listed species, the agency prepares a biological assessment. The F&W determines a biological opinion within 135 days. During the process, the developer must “refrain from making any irreversible or irretrievable commitment of resource to the project.”

If F&W decides the project will jeopardize the species, the federal agency has a few options: adopting a reasonable and prudent alternative, modifying the proposed project and consulting again with F&W, deciding not to undertake (or fund, or authorize) the project, disagreeing with the opinion and proceeding, or applying for an exemption.KealakeheParkCriticalArea

An October 2012 news release by F&W said, “Only areas that contain habitat essential to the conservation of the species, and where the benefits of this habitat outweigh potential economic impacts, will be included in the final identification.”

The F&W has proposed 11,000 acres of critical habitat within unit 35. In addition to the Regional Park, stakeholders in unit 35 include the planned state judiciary complex (currently weighing options for its site), Forest City’s kamakana villages, Hawaiian homes, and the Villages of Laiopua.

Bo Kahui, president of WHIPAC, argued the area of the Kona urban core within unit 35 is inappropriate for critical habitat and would cause more social cost than environmental benefit.

Bobby Command, county deputy planning director, has helped mediate meetings between stakeholders and representatives from F&W.

“Everyone wants to cooperate to make this happen,” he said.

Stakeholders want to protect native endangered species, but Kahui said the F&W doesn’t provide “clear guidance for how to deal with the critical habitat” that stakeholders would have to manage “in perpetuity.”

Command said the stakeholders have met as a group and talked about “a number of different strategies” to resolve the dispute. He said he would like to build a conflict resolution model for others to use in similar situations in the future.

F&W will hold a public information meeting 3-5 p.m. Aug. 7 at West Hawaii Civic Center’s Council Chambers. F&W has extended public comment on the proposed critical habitat and the draft economic analysis to Sept. 3, 2013.

— To submit comments online:

enter into search: FWS-R1-ES-2013-0028

click on the link and find the “Comment Now” button

— Find out more:

(808) 323-4444

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