Thursday, June 3, 1999

Hanauma plan needs
more citizen review

Bullet The issue: A city plan for a Kokohead Regional Park encountered strong public opposition.
Bullet Our view: Mayor Harris made the right decision in scrapping controversial parts of the plan.

JEREMY Harris has wisely backed off from an overambitious plan for a Kokohead Regional Park and Nature Preserve. The project was conceived with the best of intentions but failed to win crucial community support. Without such support, for the city to proceed would have been folly.

The plan embraced both Hanauma Bay and nearby Koko Crater -- plus Halona Blow Hole and other recreational sites in a 1,234-acre shoreline complex.

A cable car was to run to a scenic lookout at the top of the crater on tracks built during World War II. A nature learning center was to be built at the site of the old Job Corps Center adjoining Koko Head District Park.

Visitors were to be shuttled from a parking lot at the site across Kalanianaole Highway to Hanauma Bay. The existing parking lot above the bay would be closed.

A marine learning center would be built above the bay, with the purpose of educating visitors about the fragile ecosystem and discouraging overuse. Landscaping and erosion control were to be improved.

The plan encountered strong opposition and has been scaled back as a consequence. Only the marine learning center above the bay and the landscaping and erosion control plans will be retained. All the plans for Koko Crater and the regional park have been scrapped.

Some complained that the cable car to the top of the crater would have been too tourist-oriented and would have increased traffic congestion. City Councilman John Henry Felix, who represents the area, was unhappy with the idea of shuttling visitors to the bay from a parking lot at a park that is already heavily used.

However, demolition and cleanup of the Job Corps site will proceed because of liability and safety concerns.

The city's plan was too ambitious to proceed without a thorough airing of views. Officials have to go back to the community and seek out the opinions of all sectors.

Harris got the message. "I'm convinced that we need additional community input to come back with a plan that truly reflects the concerns of the community," he said.

Still to be decided is how to improve protection of Hanauma Bay from overuse. The bay is drawing 3,000 visitors a day. It is closed one day a week to give the ecosystem a breather, but more restrictions may be needed.

The bay and the adjoining area are a precious resource, one of Hawaii's most scenic attractions.

Planning is needed to preserve it while maintaining its accessibility for both residents and visitors. But planning is senseless unless it is done right and has the community's approval.

Weed and Seed
program sprouts hope

Bullet The issue: A federal, state and city program is aimed at combating crime and revitalizing lower Kalihi-Palama and Chinatown.
Bullet Our view: The crime-fighting aspect has been successful, allowing seeds of healthy growth to sprout.

LESS than a year has passed since federal, state and city authorities targeted the Chinatown-Kalihi-Palama area for revitalization, and the improvement has been impressive.

Drug traffic has been reduced drastically and the quality of life has improved in the glow of what City Prosecutor Peter Carlisle calls the "halo" of the Justice Department's Operation Weed and Seed. The challenge remains to create a permanently safe and vibrant neighborhood.

The national program was designed six years ago to weed out violent crime, gangs, drug use and drug trafficking from dangerous neighborhoods and plant economic seeds allowing the areas to flourish.

The crime-ridden area of lower Kalihi-Palama and Chinatown, including the Mayor Wright housing project, was a prime candidate for the program, with only one-fourth of its residents in the labor force and two-thirds receiving some form of public assistance.

Since August, authorities have made more than 100 drug arrests in the neighborhood, and crime at Mayor Wright has been reduced by 45 percent, reports U.S. Attorney Steven Alm. In a sting operation in Aala Park last week, police arrested 37 people on drug charges, including six accused of trying to sell crack cocaine to undercover police officers.

For the past month, a District Court has been dedicated to deal with offenses solely within the Weed-and-Seed area, including 25 prostitution arrests.

Prosecutors also have begun targeting other crimes, even petty misdemeanors such as drinking in public and littering.

"I think it's sending out a clear message: Do not misbehave in this area," says Deputy Prosecutor Cecelia Chang, the Weed-and-Seed coordinator for the city prosecutor's office.

The "seed" part of the operation is aimed at combating blight, providing housing assistance and job training, and drawing new businesses to the area. The program will be a success when crime not only is eliminated but is replaced with economic health.

Published by Liberty Newspapers Limited Partnership

Rupert E. Phillips, CEO

John M. Flanagan, Editor & Publisher

David Shapiro, Managing Editor

Diane Yukihiro Chang, Senior Editor & Editorial Page Editor

Frank Bridgewater & Michael Rovner, Assistant Managing Editors

A.A. Smyser, Contributing Editor

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