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Land Board's 'Plan B' ups fees at parks, harbors, campgrounds


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POSTED: Friday, August 14, 2009

It's time for “;Plan B.”;

That's what the state Department of Land and Natural Resources is calling its effort to resurrect its “;Recreational Renaissance”; plan to invest $240 million over five years in state parks, harbors, hiking trails and ocean recreation facilities that was all but shot down by the Senate this year.

The new “;Back to Basics”; plan, on today's agenda of the Board of Land and Natural Resources, will focus on increasing maintenance and raising new revenue from vacant urban lands, the DLNR said.

“;We need to take steps now; we cannot wait for the Legislature to approve capital improvements,”; the department said in a statement yesterday.

;

Plan B includes a variety of new fees and fee increases. Tourists would be charged $5 to park at eight highly visited state parks, while walk-ins and residents would enter free. The parking fees would be phased in this year, but eventually tourists would be charged entry fees and parking fees would be eliminated, said Land Board Chairwoman Laura Thielen. The current fees at Diamond Head will still apply to everyone: $1 for walk-ins, $5 for cars and additional fees for buses and commercial vehicles.

There would also be a fee hike for campground and cabin permits, with tourists paying a slightly higher fee than residents. The mooring rate in each harbor would increase by $3.47 per foot over a five-year period to support ocean recreation and harbor maintenance. The current mooring rate per foot is $5.67 at Ala Wai Harbor, but rates vary depending on harbor size.

All revenue generated from these fees would go toward the respective divisions for maintenance and repairs, the department said.

Thielen said that more than 30 organizations support Plan B, which is crucial for gaining legislative funds toward long-term improvements next year.

“;It's important for two reasons: First, by developing revenue, it'll demonstrate that we can repay the debt service and get approval for the bigger fixes,”; said Thielen. “;Second, these areas are in dire need of immediate repair and maintenance.”;

               

     

 

Recreational Renaissance
        Plan B

       

The state Department of Land and Natural Resources “;Back to Basics”; proposal:

        » Tourists will pay per $5 vehicle at eight state parks: Oahu: Nuuanu Pali, Ka Iwi Maui: Iao, Makena Big Island: Hapuna, Akaka Falls Kauai: Kokee/ Waimea, Haena
       

» Fee increase for campground and cabin permits

       

» Mooring increase of $3.47 per foot per month at all harbors over five years

       

» Increasing existing urban land leases

       

» Generate new, nontaxpayer revenue from urban and industrial land leases

       

» All revenue will go toward repairs and maintenance for state parks, hiking trails, harbors, boat ramps and piers.

       

Speak out

        Public testimony encouraged:
       

» Board meeting: 9 a.m. today

       

» Place: Kalanimoku Building, at 1151 Punchbowl St., Land Board Conference Room 132

       

 

       

The department hopes to raise $8 million annually within two years through a combination of those fees and an increase in existing urban land leases. The department hopes to generate an additional $12 million within five years from new nontaxpayer revenue from urban and industrial land leases, the statement said.

Due to the lack of funds and budget reductions, the department has performed “;duct tape and elbow grease”; repairs, such as wooden catwalks to replace collapsed concrete piers at Kaunakakai, Molokai, and boat ramps at Kikiaola, Kauai, until the Legislature approves long-term capital improvements.

“;Keeping these places open during tough economic times is critical for everyone. Residents rely on these places for respite; small businesses rely on these places for their livelihood; tourists dream of visiting these places, and their repeat visits depend on a good experience,”; the Department of Land and Natural Resources said.

The department added that its current budget barely covers basic maintenance for state parks and boating and ocean recreation areas. The nearly $9 million parks budget must cover 69 parks and park reserves, in addition to paying staff. The department had $70,000 to fund each state park, compared with the $4.8 million that the National Park Service invested on average into each of five national parks in Hawaii last year, not including Kalaupapa or the USS Arizona.

The Boating and Ocean Recreation Division has a slightly larger budget of about $11 million but is also struggling to cover basic maintenance for its harbors and piers.