Thursday, November 11, 1999

City & County of Honolulu

Hanauma Bay plan
approved by
City Council

Construction of the facilities
is expected to start
early next year

By Gordon Y.K. Pang


Construction of an educational center and other improvements at Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve should begin by early next year, city officials said.

The City Council yesterday voted 7-2 to approve a special management area use permit for the $10 million plan following nearly five hours of testimony. Members Mufi Hannemann and Donna Mercado Kim dissented.

The centerpiece -- and the point of controversy -- for the plan are two buildings to be constructed in the upper region of the park, overlooking the bay.


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An 8,400-square-foot marine education facility would include a resource awareness training room where visitors would learn basic dos and don'ts through a video. Repeat visitors would not need to go through the five- to seven-minute "training" video for a year.

The structure also would include administrative office space, a gift shop, exhibit area, docent room, training office, storage space and restrooms. A separate, 1,600-square-foot structure would house a snack bar and more restrooms.

In the beach area, an existing snack bar and pavilion would be demolished while restrooms and a snorkel concession would be replaced. There would also be a small information kiosk and life guard storage area.

Critics of the plan, chiefly the East Honolulu Community Coalition, say the facilities are excessive and the plan is nothing more than glorified office space for Hanauma Bay staff.

"We wanted a small, modest facility," said David Washino, a member of the coalition and the Hanauma Bay Task Force which came up with the plan.

Washino estimated only 10 percent of the facility is devoted to education and that the whole project will saddle the city with debt service for years. He wants the task force to spend another year ironing out a plan.

"It's too large, it's too close to the bluffs, it's too expensive," said Kerri Woodall, another coalition member.

Some critics said the task force ignored their suggestions.

But supporters of the plan called it a step toward restoration of the preserve that was completed by the task force after seven weeks of discussion.

Richard Baker, president of the nonprofit Friends of Hanauma Bay, said he and others who volunteer time at the bay were opposed to Mayor Jeremy Harris' original plan that called for a trolley up to Koko Head and moving all parking at the park across Kalanianaole Highway.

Jeff Kawabara, volunteer coordinator at the preserve, said "we need a world-class education center to raise awareness about the coral reefs."

Kim and Hannemann said they oppose the plan because, among other reasons, they feel a study on the maximum amount of people allowed in at one time should be completed first. The plan is slated to be finished next year. Kim said, "I'm not convinced that we need a 10,000-square-foot building to make a natural habitat."

But Councilman Steve Holmes, who voted for the permit, said the project is a compromise from Harris' early plan and is "greatly reduced in size and scope."

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