(BIVN) – Only a few people testified during a hearing Wednesday evening in Hilo concerning the withdrawal of lands in the Mauna Kea Forest Reserve, however they provided an abundance of information.
The state says the 32-acre Gilbert Kahele Recreation Area, currently owned by the Department of Land and Natural Resources and designated as part of the Mauna Kea Forest Reserve, will be formally withdrawn and set aside to the County of Hawaiʻi, which has been managing the park through a Memorandum of Understanding since 2014.
A second parcel, 2.9 acres adjacent to the Gilbert Kahele Recreation Area, will be withdrawn from the Reserve and set aside to the Department of Transportation. The DOT will use the land “for a centrally located maintenance baseyard to efficiently operate and maintain the Daniel K. Inouye Highway, also known as Saddle Road,” the state says. “The Saddle Road realignment project was a partnership of federal and state agencies to upgrade and modernize the highway from milepost six in South Hilo to the junction with Mamalahoa Highway in South Kohala, to provide safe and efficient travel between east and west Hawaii.”
Jim Albertini, Ronald Fujiyoshi, and Kepa Kaeo spoke on the both items during the hearing held at the DOFAW Conference Room on Kawili Street. Their testimony detailed health concerns related to depleted uranium, used decades ago at the nearby Pohakuloa Training Area. They also raised concerns over land title, referring to documents dating back to the Great Māhele.
Also, Steven Hurt testified on behalf of the Big Island Bird Hunters. Hurt said the hunters are in support of the withdrawal and set aside but wanted to make sure that hunting access routes are maintained.
Also present where County administration officials: Managing Director Wil Okabe, and Parks and Recreation directors.
People who want to provide additional comments can still submit written testimony postmarked no later than July 10 by mail to the Forestry Program Manager, Division of Forestry and Wildlife, 1151 Punchbowl St., #325, Honolulu, Hawaiʻi 96813, or by email to Forestry@hawaii.gov