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StarBulletin.com

Off-road adventures


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POSTED: Tuesday, August 25, 2009

A narrow parcel once covered with kiawe, dry brush and trash has been transformed into a park for dirt bikes, all-terrain vehicles and BMX riders.

About 100 people attended a ceremony yesterday for Sandbox Hawaii, an off-road park the size of a football field near the Marine Education and Training Center at Sand Island. The park is slated to open Oct. 1.

It will be the only off-road track authorized on state land on Oahu to be open weekdays. The other park is Kahuku Motocross, which is only open on weekends and federal holidays.

The park is 90 percent complete. Still to be done are rock removal and compacting the dirt, said Reid Shimabukuro, president of the Sand Island Off-Highway Vehicle Association.

Though Shimabukuro does not ride motorcycles or motocross bikes, he recognized a wider need for such a park for youths.

“;There's a ton of kids on bikes, but they have nowhere to ride,”; he said.

The groundbreaking came after the state and association overcame hurdles with daunting permit processes. Four years ago Curt Cottrell, assistant administrator of the Division of State Parks, was state trail program manager when Shimabukuro approached him with the idea of an off-road park near the Ewa shoreline of Sand Island State Park.

Cottrell worked closely with Shimabukuro and other members of the association on the project.

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The state received a $30,000 federal grant for the project. Cottrell worked on the environmental assessment and the special management area use permit, but he and his staff faced complicated permit processes, which prompted him to hire consultants.

About $13,500 was spent to obtain a grubbing and grading permit and a permit from the state Department of Health. The remaining funds will go toward fuel for heavy equipment.

Volunteers cleared the kiawe and trash. An expert from the American Bicycle Association recently arrived in Hawaii, helping the local group create the track.

Cottrell said the Sand Island association may either obtain a lease or revocable permit to operate and manage the park for two years. While Cottrell said he supports the association staying at the site after the two-year period, it is unknown what plans the state might later have for the parcel.

During the ceremony, John DeSoto, known as the Flyin' Hawaiian during his motocross days in the 1960s and 1970s, said racing motorcycles helped him stay focused. DeSoto, who was inducted into the American Motorcycle Heritage Foundation's Hall of Fame in 1999 and the Hawaii Sports Hall of Fame in 2004, described the park as a place where youths can release their energy instead of engaging in illegal activities or drug or alcohol abuse.

“;This is awesome,”; said DeSoto, a former city councilman, as he scanned the track. “;This will give them determination, dedication, and most of all, this will give them discipline and focus on what they want to do.”;