(BIVN) – A newly published draft environmental assessment anticipates a Finding of No Significant Impact for planned accessibility improvements at Kolekole Gulch Park, which has been closed since 2016.
[Hawaiʻi County Parks & Rec] proposes to eliminate architectural barriers at the park to create safe, appropriate and compliant access for all. Used for decades for picnics, camping and enjoying Kolekole Stream, the park was closed in 2016 to deal with soil lead contamination derived mainly from an adjacent DOT bridge. That issue is being addressed through interagency cooperation. The project would convert restrooms, upgrade septic, renovate pavilions, and conduct drainage, parking, utility, landscaping and accessory facility upgrades. No impacts to terrestrial flora or fauna would occur, and the stream, ocean and aquatic resources they support will be protected through extensive BMPs. No historic sites are present, and the cultural value of the park will be restored through the action.
“We’ll take comments and go through the necessary permitting processes to get our accessibility improvements project taken care of,” said James Komata, the deputy director of the Department of Parks and Rec during a Hawaiʻi County Council committee meeting in early February. “We anticipate that project to start the latter part of this year.”
“The park is currently closed,” Komata explained. “We are working with State DOT and State HERE office on opening the park on an interim measure, which is anticipated for March. So, next month. At that time when we open the park, DOT has put in some temporary fencing to fence off some areas that have been determined to have a high lead content in the soil and they are currently fabricating warning signs that they’ll post in the park and in the fenced areas.”
“We’re working with Public Works to re-establish safe access to the park from the highway,” the deputy director added, “because that road there – the old highway – is under the jurisdiction of Public Works. So, in speaking with them, they anticipate the next two weeks they should be able to get that road cleared and safe for public access.”
“When our accessibility improvement project does come through in maybe October / November of this year, the park would be closed,” Komata said, because “we are proposing major improvements there. It’s part of the project we have been working with the DOT to incorporate the lead soil remediation.”
During the anticipated closure in the fall, the county will incorporate the accessibility improvements, the necessary repairs, as well as the the soil remediation all at once.
“We’re working with the state to make sure funding is in place on their part,” Komata said. “I know most people aren’t necessarily aware, nor do they really care, who the responsible party is, whether it’s state government or county government,” but Komata said the lead-contaminated soil “is predominantly from the highway bridge structure,” and therefor the “responsibility for remediation lies with the state.”