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Tuesday, February 6, 2001

Land Board staff boosts
plans for Hanauma Bay
marine center,
snack bar

By Gordon Y.K. Pang

Staff members have recommended that the state Board of Land and Natural Resources approve city plans for Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve that critics call unsightly and unneeded.

A conservation district use application for construction of a marine education center, gift shop and a snack bar is up for a vote by the Land Board Friday morning.

Opponents of the project, who in December lost an attempt to intervene in the case, will protest outside the Land Board offices at the Kalanimoku Building on Punchbowl Street before the vote. The project will cost $11.7 million.

Opposition centers on improvements planned for the upper portion of the bay. Plans include a marine education center and gift shop under one roof with a separate structure that will hold a snack bar. Both buildings would be housed under bermed roofs 10 to 18 feet high.

"The whole thing really lacks an awareness of what is Hanauma Bay," said Hawaii Kai resident Roy Benham, one of those opposed to the plans. "It's a natural place that we want to try to keep as natural as possible."

But according to the staff, "the project has been designed to provide for the basic comfort of nature preserve visitors -- both local and tourist -- using an awareness training program and educational facilities that will help protect Hanauma Bay's marine ecosystem from destructive human activity" while "minimizing visual impacts to the natural beauty and open space venue for the same visitors."

City official Cynthia Bond said Mayor Jeremy Harris is pleased with the recommendation by Land Board staff.

The city has maintained that the improvements are designed to protect the bay by educating visitors, most of whom are there for the first time, Bond said.

The East Honolulu Community Coalition, of which Benham is a member, wants the Land Board to delay a decision on the upper bay until their questions are addressed.

David Washino, a member of the group, said community concerns -- including those from the environmental and native Hawaiian organizations -- were ignored.

A task force convened by the mayor met five times for two hours each, Washino said.

"We felt the clock was always running," he said. "The task force never got involved with anything other than conceptual ideas."

The Land Board staff recommendation concludes that the city made a "concerted effort to solicit community input" but could have done a better job reaching out to environmental and Hawaiian organizations earlier in the process.

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