HILO — Now that a finding of no significant environmental impact has been published for a new resources management plan for South Point, the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands is ready to take up a project residents have requested for three decades — as soon as it finds the money.
South Point, also known as Ka Lae, is believed to be the site where ancient Polynesians from the Marquesas Islands first made landfall in A.D. 124 in what later became known as the Hawaiian Islands.
It’s a popular tourist attraction because of its green sand beach, and it’s a popular jumping-off point for locals and tourists interested in high-diving off the cliffs. But off-road vehicles have destroyed cultural sites and eroded soil and sand.
More than 300 vehicles were counted on each of two sample days last June, with only about 30 percent of them local, in a survey conducted by DHHL consultant Townscape Inc.
“The majority of informants supported closing down the road to South Point to allow the land to heal,” concludes the environmental assessment report published June 8.
The final 836-page report can be found at https://bit.ly/2sW4Svc.
An entrance gate and security booth are among the first projects planned for the site. DHHL also plans to create parking spaces, sanitary amenities, a pedestrian path, emergency access road and a cultural interpretative walking trail with signage and protective barriers around cultural sites.
A parking fee will be instituted to help defray costs.
The agency hasn’t yet established a timeline for the work to begin.
“All is dependent upon sufficient funding for this plan,” DHHL spokeswoman Paula Aila said in an email response Thursday. “The gate is a portion of all the steps that will need to be taken into consideration.”
A bevy of federal, state and local agencies took advantage of the comment period to submit recommendations. No members of the public submitted comments, but they have participated in local talk-story sessions to make their manao known.
“Most people consulted for this project were concerned about the role of DHHL as a land manager at South Point and the lack of attention the agency has devoted to the previous and existing impacts to natural and cultural resources at South Point,” the report states. “While some welcomed the (resources management plan) for South Point as a step in the right direction for the place, others were skeptical about the agency’s ability to follow through and implement the actions in the plan.”
Anna Cariaga was among those expressing frustration with DHHL’s inaction.
“It’s time now,” she stated in the report. “Gotta put the feet down. … Stop what is going on now.”