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Building the Sandbox


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POSTED: Saturday, December 19, 2009

QUESTION: While relaxing this past Saturday at the side of Sand Island that faces the airport, about half a dozen vehicles drove past. Checking around, I saw a lot of heavy equipment used to move dirt around to create trails. I also saw a pickup truck driving about as if testing the rolling trails. None of these people seem to be in uniform or of authority. Is the city creating a off-road facility for big trucks since it is allowing motocross bikes and battery-operated cars? Also, I have seen vehicles drive down and around Sand Island. Isn't that illegal? Yet I don't see any signs posted. This type of activity is not compatible with beachgoers.

ANSWER: The dirt is being used to create a new off-road facility for BMX, dirt bikes, four-wheel-drive and all-terrain vehicles.

The site is part of the state Sand Island Recreation Area, so it's the state Department of Land and Natural Resources, not the city, that is developing the area with the nonprofit Sand Island Off-Highway Vehicle Association.

All the equipment and labor are being donated, which is why much of the activity is taking place on weekends and after hours, said Curt Cottrell, assistant administrator for state parks.

Groundbreaking for the new facility, called Sandbox Hawaii, was held in August. Only the BMX bicycle and radio-controlled tracks are open on Wednesdays and Sundays from 3 to 6 p.m. According to the Sandboxhawaii.com Web site, it will be about two weeks before the larger motorcycle, ATV and 4X4 tracks are completed and open for use.

; The area being developed had been unused and occupied by vagrants, Cottrell said.

“;It's worked out really well to have a responsible organization come in,”; he said.

It's hoped that having an authorized off-road facility will reduce trespassing and environmental damage from off-road vehicles at Kaena Point and other state and private lands.

“;We're really short of authorized places for folks to operate motorcycles and ATVs,”; Cottrell said. The only other site on Oahu — the Kahuku Motorcross Track — is only open on weekends, he said.

The state has spent about $23,000 so far to get the construction and grading permits and for fuel for the heavy equipment, Cottrell said. The money came from a federal grant, so no state funds were spent.

Sandbox Hawaii also will charge a user fee to pay for insurance and to maintain the facility so state funds will not be needed.

Cottrell acknowledged that noise from the off-road vehicles might be heard from the park when the facility is fully operational.

But he said the site was chosen because it borders the industrial area of Sand Island and is under the flight path for Honolulu Airport.

The site is also being used as a storage area for Grace Pacific, which might account for some of the vehicles and construction materials in the area, Cottrell said.

The park is likely to see some heavy use during the next few months. Honolulu Seawater Air Conditioning LLC is also leasing a field as a staging area as it builds a new system to cool buildings in downtown Honolulu using cold ocean water.

The area is also used by canoe clubs and campers.

The off-road users know that the use of the site might only be temporary, Cottrell said.

“;It's prime urban real estate,”; Cottrell said. “;But a better plan hasn't been figured out for that section of the park.”;

Long term, the Division of Boating and Ocean Recreation might expand a boat ramp in the area and add new boat slips.

But Cottrell said the division has no money to spend on new projects and is not likely to have funds for several years.

MAHALO

I wish to express my thanks to the people who rushed to aid me when I fell at Kahala Mall on Dec. 12. They rushed off before I could get their names or thank them, but I want them to know that their kindness and concern were greatly appreciated. I'd also like to thank the Kahala Mall security and the ambulance crews for their capable and reassuring help. It's nice to know that such people are around when one needs them. — Jean

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June Watanabe will be on vacation until the end of the year. Her column will resume Jan. 6. Write to “;Kokua Line”; at Honolulu Star-Bulletin, 7 Waterfront Plaza, Suite 210, 500 Ala Moana Blvd., Honolulu 96813; call 529-4773; fax 529-4750; or e-mail .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).