Leave Ka Iwi shore cabins out of park-revamp plans


POSTED: Wednesday, April 15, 2009

It should come as no surprise that Hawaii Kai residents are seething about the mere possibility of cabins being erected in the Ka Iwi Scenic Shoreline. They won a lengthy battle against a proposed resort development on the scenic ridge above Makapuu Beach last year, and that should have put an end to talk of such an intrusion.

The shoreline is included among 29 parks and boating facilities cited for possible improvements — including cabins — in a bill pending in the Legislature that is receiving widespread support from environmental groups. The bill should be altered to calm the Hawaii Kai Neighborhood Board, which voted 13-0 little more than a year ago against putting cabins in the area.

The provision is included in a bill supported by the state Department of Land and Natural Resources aimed at raising $240 million to improve state parks, small boat harbors and hiking trails by charging tourists user fees for entering and raising boat slip fees. The improvements could include pavilions, cabins and concession facilities.

“;If the state can build cabins, that would be undermining a 30-year community effort to keep that area open,”; said Greg Knudsen, the neighborhood board's chairman.

“;I have provided multiple assurances that there are no intentions to build cabins there,”; responded Laura Thielen, the DLNR director. Instead, she explained, the state wants to make improvements to Ka Iwi — known popularly as the Makapuu Lighthouse trail — to allow the U.S. Coast Guard to maintain the lighthouse and, at a cost of $4 million, bring the trail into compliance with the federal Americans with Disabilities Act.

Knudsen tangled with the issue of protecting the area three years ago, when developer QRM LL sought a permit from the city to put clusters of 800-square-foot cabins on the hillside, plus a clubhouse, pool and other amenities. The neighborhood board unanimously stated its opposition, and the city's Department of Planning and Permitting later rejected the proposal for failing to meet zoning requirements.

The skirmish resulted in a half-dozen bills last year that would have prevented development across the scenic ridge, and Knudsen understandably regards the current legislation as a threat.

Instead, Thielen says the bill is aimed at managing, restoring and protecting “;the natural and cultural resources that are the very essence of Hawaii,”; places where local residents can retreat while six million tourists a year include them in their destinations.

Thielen testified before a legislative committee that the Lingle administration supports placing Ka Iwi Park into a conservation district and classify it as “;a scenic shoreline wilderness park.”; However, the legislation should be changed to ensure an adequate level of protection while that classification is sought.