Free parking problematic at Ala Wai
The absence of car parking fees at the Ala Wai Harbor has been one of the numerous criticisms state auditor Marion Higa has had for many years about the management practices of the state's Division of Boating and Ocean Resources.
She noted specifically in her 2001 audit how the majority of the harbor's 750 parking stalls that are available for free to the general public on a first-come, first-served basis, are often used by non-boat owners, including beach-goers and hotel and construction workers.
So now I suppose we really can't find fault with DOBOR's current attempt to finally establish (albeit at glacial speed) a parking fee system for the harbor, even though future audits of the division's management may remain critical.
Even in DOBOR's new plan, some parking will still be free. Bowing to the demands of a small but strident number of surfers and paddlers, it will continue to allow the approximately 160 stalls makai of the Hilton Lagoon -- once a helipad -- to be used without charge, but with one change, overnight parking will no longer be allowed.
The remaining parking stalls that are not reserved for the harbor's recreational boaters will be operated as a revenue-producing concession by Diamond Parking on a month-to-month basis for an interim period of one year.
Drivers parking there will be charged a mere 25 cents an hour.
DOBOR officials say this interim period is needed due to the complexity of preparing an appropriate "Request for Proposals" to design, implement and manage a long-term parking concession for the harbor.
And if a long-term parking concession is in the works, might we hope a similar public/private partnership for the whole marina operation could be in their minds as well? But I digress.
The DOBOR officials, in a clear attempt to include opinions from anyone with interest in the Ala Wai's parking situation, held an organizational meeting Aug. 20 to establish an advisory ad hoc committee.
The committee's mission, DOBOR advised, is to "create high-quality information and useful opinions" that will "ensure the long-term concession RFP will elicit responses that can significantly improve and maintain the (harbor's parking) program."
This would appear to be a noble goal, but the committee's makeup might be questioned considering the harbor, its facilities, and the surrounding fast land was created in the early 1950s specifically for recreational boaters.
Plus, it has all been maintained with boaters' user fees in the Boating Special Fund ever since.
I have pointed out on numerous occasions in past years that even an asphalt-paved parking lot has ongoing expenses for sweeping, repairs, lighting, security and periodic resurfacing.
How is it that beach-goers, whether they are surfers, paddlers, anglers or sunbathers -- who have contributed nothing to its maintenance -- are not only given free parking, but are also encouraged to take part in determining the boat harbor's future long-term parking program?
It would seem that a certain amount of "buy-in" would be required, even if it were as small as 25 cents an hour for parking.