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The Recreational Renaissance

State plan for recreational resource improvement comes to Molokai

By Catherine Cluett

Molokai hasn’t been forgotten in the state’s newest plan for improvement of recreational areas – the island is slated to receive $4,490,000 for three projects on the island between now and 2013. A total of $240 million has been allocated for a statewide “Recreational Renaissance,” a revamping of recreational facilities of both land and sea.

A group of Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR) representatives visited Molokai last week on their state-wide tour, asking for community support for the project. Edward Underwood, Administrator of the Division of Boating and Aquatic Recreation, says the Recreational Renaissance plan needs community support in order for the bills to pass through legislature.

The first improvement scheduled for Molokai is the Kaunakakai Small Boat Harbor. Changes will include structural reconstruction of the wharf, parking improvements, and a new boat washdown area, totaling $790,000. Underwood said these improvements could begin as soon as July, 2009.

Pala`au State Park is also on the list to receive improvements. The Recreational Renaissance plan outlines water system improvements and pavilion and camping area enhancements at a cost of $1,500,000. The park improvements are not scheduled to begin until 2011. And while other selected parks in the state undergoing renovations will have visitor user fees, Underwood said Pala`au will remain free for both residents and visitors to the island.

The third area of improvements earmarked for Molokai is the “Ho`olehua wetlands.” Dr. Fern P. Duvall II, Wildlife biologist with the DLNR Division of Forestry and Wildlife, says the area is not in Ho`olehua at all, but is located eight miles west of Kaunakakai, along the Molokai’s southern coast in the Pala`au shoreline area.

The goal of the project would be to remove sediment and restore the original water level of the 75 acre area as habitat for Hawaiian water birds. Vegetation would be removed and replaced with native plants. In addition, the area would be fenced to protect against predators. Duvall says he first looked into the project 16 years ago, and it finally made it into a comprehensive plan. He adds that the project won’t be addressed until 2013. The estimated cost of improvements is $2,200,000.

Molokai residents have expressed doubt that the project should be a priority for the island. Why, the ask, would so much money be used for something many residents didn’t even know existed? They question if the money would be better utilized elsewhere.

Representatives of DLNR explained that many of these projects came from the top down by order of the Governor with no community input. They said there will be further opportunity for discussion and community input before projects scheduled for the future, such as the Ho`olehua wetlands, are completed.

“On Molokai, we don’t look at it as recreation, but subsistence,” said Walter Ritte, a Molokai resident and activist. “It’s not recreation, it’s supporting our families.”

Ritte noted the DLNR’s lack of support for a recent bill that would grant Molokai residents management of local waters.

“You need to go from enemy of the community to being a partner of the community,” he told DLNR representatives.

“I’m open to anything,” said Underwood, expressing the hope that there will be greater communication and collaboration between the community and the DLNR in the future.  Underwood said it’s the community’s job to bring their concerns and plans before the DLNR.

The DLNR, in collaboration with the Governor, has proposed a “Recreational Renaissance” strategy to invest in Hawaii’s recreational resources statewide. The plan includes streamlining and coordinating projects between state departments to better maintain and promote recreational areas in the state including parks, trails, harbors, and other ocean recreation facilities.

“More than any other state, Hawaii residents depend upon our ocean and land for recreational opportunities, sustenance, and cultural and spiritual practices,” said Governor Linda Lingle.
“Many facilities were built right after statehood,” said Underwood. “They’re beyond maintenance.”
Departments will be working together and coordinating both monetary and human resources for projects in the same area. He says the government will also be creating a new special fund for combining and balancing surplus funds from different departments for recreational projects.
As part of the initiative, DLNR will be revamping boating rules and fees, according to Underwood. He says part of that will be setting mooring fees for the harbor by appraised value.
The $240 million plan for capitol improvements statewide over a period of five years will be funded by $40 million in General Obligation bonds, as well as development of new revenue from industrial and commercial rents on state lands.
 

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