(BIVN) – The Final Master Plan for Kealakekua Bay State Historical Park was given state land board approval on Friday.
At its October 27th meeting, the Hawaiʻi Board of Land and Natural Resources voted to approve the plan that was decades in the making.
From a Hawaiʻi DLNR submittal:
The Board approved submitting and recommending to the Governor acceptance of the Final Environmental Impact Statement (Final EIS) for the project at the meeting held on January 22, 2021. This Board action did not involve approving the master plan. Governor David Ige accepted the Final EIS on April 26, 2021. Future land use permits would still be required that would be subject to the Board’s review before project improvements can be implemented. The Board’s action at this time is limited to the Final Master Plan. The Board will be able to review the merits of project improvements as part of the permit applications.
Public meetings were held in 2009, 2010, and 2016 to assist State Parks in drafting the Master Plan for the Park. In conjunction with the Draft EIS (DEIS), a public meeting was held on April 14, 2018 to share information about the EIS and hear community concerns.
Completion of the Master Plan has been delayed by two community-based undertakings. The first were initial discussions with the newly formed Kealakekua Cultural Advisory ‘Ohana which came about after testimony was received at the public meeting in conjunction with the Draft EIS as well as being recommended in the Cultural Impact Assessment (CIA) prepared as part of the EIS process. The other was State Parks’ participation in a Community Action Plan (CAP) process for Kealakekua Bay that provided an opportunity to identify issues and challenges that can be addressed through community partnerships and a coordinated action plan.
For planning and management purposes, the DLNR says the park has been divided into 4 sections:
Kealakekua Bay and Kaʻawaloa Cove: Visitor counts in the bay and cove ranged from 250 to 400 persons per day in 2019. This count includes passengers on commercial motorized craft from Honokōhau, Keauhou, and Hōnaunau, as well as kayaks and stand-up paddleboards (SUPs) from the Nāpōʻopoʻo side of the bay. State Parks began issuing permits for vessel access to the bay in 2013 with permits being required for personal, rental, and commercial vessels. A total of 758 permits (71 commercial and 687 personal vessels) were issued in 2022 which reflects an increase from the 514 permits (86 commercial and 428 personal vessels) issued in 2019 with most of the increase being in the number of non-commercial vessels.
Kaʻawaloa: Encompassing about 90 acres, Kaʻawaloa Flat is an intact archaeological complex and significant cultural site where high chief Kalaniʻōpuʻu was residing at the time of Captain Cook’s arrival at Kealakekua Bay in 1779. The Captain Cook monument was erected in 1874 when Miriam Likelike donated seafront land to James Wodehouse, British Commissioner in Hawai‘i, for the construction of the monument. The parcel encompassing the monument is currently owned by the Wodehouse Trust. The jetty adjacent to the monument was built by the Territory of Hawaii in 1929. Hikers can access Kaʻawaloa and the bay by taking the 2-mile hike down the Kaʻawaloa Road. Under current park rules, participants on one of the three permitted guided kayak tours can land at ʻĀwili near the Cook monument, but other boaters are restricted to the waters of the bay. The current permitted use is twelve kayaks per operator for a total of 36 kayaks per day. Vehicle access to Kaʻawaloa Flat is limited to the Old Cart Road that runs along the coast and enters the park from privately owned parcels in the adjacent ahupuaʻa of Keōpuka.
Nāpōʻopoʻo: Historically known as Kekua, the park adjacent to the residences of Nāpōʻopoʻo Village includes Hikiau Heiau, and sites associated with the priestly compound. Park facilities include a pavilion with restrooms, picnic tables, BBQ stand, water fountain, and an outdoor shower. Interpretive signs have been placed overlooking the bay and adjacent to Hikiau Heiau. At present, the Landing is gated, and use is restricted to the permitted kayak and canoe tours.
Pali Kapu o Keōua: This 600-foot cliff between the Kaʻawaloa and Nāpōʻopoʻo sections of the park is the major geological feature of the park. The park property consists of a 300-foot wide strip along the top of the pali with remnants of the historic trail along this coastline. For safety reasons, this portion of the park is closed for public access.
The submittal goes on to explain:
The purpose of the Master Plan is to identify a sustainable, actionable strategy to preserve natural, cultural, and historic resources within the park, while improving the visitor experience by providing basic facilities and interpretive resources. State Parks seeks to preserve and share the resources of the park and to support recreational use in a manner that does not have adverse impacts on the natural, cultural, and historic values. Staffing by DLNR and concessionaires, with support from community volunteers, is needed to manage visitation and share the stories of Kealakekua Bay.
The Master Plan proposes actions that can be implemented with modest funding and no additional land acquisition, while improving the park experience for both visitors and residents. Respect for the surrounding community played a key role in the planning. Members of the Kealakekua community were involved throughout the planning process.
The Master Plan addresses basic visitor facilities, especially parking at Nāpōʻopoʻo and toilets at Kaʻawaloa. The proposed parking arrangements and use of Nāpōʻopoʻo Landing are intended to reduce impacts of visitation on the community. The need for a waterless toilet at Kaʻawaloa is a high priority need for public health. The plan includes interpretive trails that can help visitors learn about history and cultural resources. It recognizes the importance of collaborating with cultural experts and practitioners in developing and implementing interpretive programs and management strategies. It limits access to Kaʻawaloa where visitors could impact the archaeological and cultural resources. The plan addresses safety issues for swimmers and snorkelers in Kaʻawaloa Cove with the installation of buoys to create a safety zone from motorized vessels.