Joey Medeiros, left, and his cousin James Lock held up Hawaiian crabs they trapped last month at Kawainui Marsh. Kailua community leaders want to develop two parcels of land into a park, with restrooms and an open-air educational pavilion.

Kailua plans for
Kawainui park

The proposal would allow
canoe paddlers and kayakers
access to Oneawa Canal

Tour planned

By Diana Leone

A park proposed on the northern edge of Kawainui Marsh could be a place for a quiet picnic, for educational field trips to the state's largest marsh and for kayakers and canoe paddlers to access Kailua's Oneawa Canal.

Kawainui Gateway Park, offered by Kailua community leaders as part of the city vision team program, would include two parcels of land that ultimately may be linked by a bridge over Oneawa Canal.

First to be developed would be about 5 acres on the marsh side of Mokapu Boulevard, across from Kalaheo High School, with plans for landscaping, a parking lot, a restroom, an open air educational pavilion and a launching point for canoes and kayaks.

A second parcel of about 8 acres is south of the existing Kawainui Community Park (also known as Kaha Park) adjacent to the Coconut Grove subdivision. This area is envisioned as a nature walk area, with removal of nonnative plants, restoration of native species and a boardwalk to view the waterbirds that call Kawainui Marsh home.

Hawaii's four endangered waterbirds -- the Hawaiian stilt, coot, koloa duck and moorhen -- are all found in the marsh, as well as 60 other birds.

For years proponents of the marsh have pushed for preservation and improvement of its habitat, while increasing people's ability to observe the wildlife there without disturbing it.

There will be a public hearing on the proposal at 10:30 a.m. Tuesday at Kailua District Park, 21 S. Kainalu Drive. The hearing is required because the park would be in the coastal management zone, said David Curry of Helber Hastert & Fee, the company that did the project's environmental assessment.

Because a portion of the almost 13 acres is state land, permission from the governor to build a city park on state land and approval from the state Board of Land and Natural Resources will also be required, Curry said.

"It's called the gateway park because it's the entryway into Kailua," on that side of town, Curry said.

About $720,000 for everything but the restrooms and pavilion on the Mokapu parcel is allocated for this year, he said. To complete work there, add the Coconut Grove parcel and a bridge would cost the city $1.68 million more, according to the environmental assessment.

"It's a great project," said Curry, also a Kailua resident. The side of the road "has been kind of an eyesore ... weedy, with piles of dirt and all the haole koa that's built up," he said.

Some neighbors have concerns, including the height of a bridge over Oneawa Canal and that Kaneohe-bound drivers would not be able to turn left off Mokapu Boulevard into the park, said Kailua Neighborhood Board member Donna Wong. "I'm glad to see they're having a meeting to listen to community concerns."

The board does not have an official position on the park, but Chairwoman Kathy Bryant-Hunter, who lives nearby, said she likes the idea.

"I think it would be a great asset to that end of the community," she said, noting that many people use Kaha Park and walk on the flood-control levee along the border of the marsh.

"They worked closely with Kawainui Heritage Foundation to make sure (the park) is consistent with (the state's) master plan for the marsh," she said. "Anything we can do to open that marsh up to the community and let them experience it. My feeling is the more people are aware of it the more they're going to want to protect it and save it."



Kawainui tour planned

Both wetland and urban birds can be seen on a Kailua tour that will car-pool/walk to selected sites in Kawainui Marsh, Hamakua Wetlands and Kaelepulu Ponds (Enchanted Lake) at 8:30 a.m. on Saturday.

Ron Walker, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service wildlife biologist, will lead the tour, sponsored by the Kawai Nui Heritage Foundation and Ahahui Malama i ka Lokahi.

A donation of $5 is requested. To register, contact Chuck "Doc" Burrows at 595-3922 or

Star-Bulletin staff

E-mail to City Desk


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