KAILUA-KONA — County Council members Tuesday put their seal of approval on a request to transfer $162,000 to fund the next steps in bringing to fruition the Kealakehe Regional Park.
Bill 202 seeks to transfer the fair share contribution funds and add them to $470,300 previously allocated for environmental and related studies and plans. It passed the council 7-0 on second reading following no discussion. It next heads to Mayor Harry Kim’s desk for his signature.
The more than $630,000 combined will cover an environmental assessment and preliminary engineering report for the project. Also funded will be updating an already approved master plan and preparing plans for 30 acres of on- and off-site critical habitat area per an agreement with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
The 190-acre park would be situated between Queen Kaahumanu and Ane Keohokalole highways and Kealakehe Parkway in Kailua-Kona, below Kealakehe High School and south of the West Hawaii Civic Center.
No funding for the park’s construction is currently included in the 2018-19 capital improvement project budget. But, money has been allocated in past CIP budgets, including $1.5 million re-appropriated in 2016. Funding for the project’s also been included in prior bond requests.
The cost to fully construct the Kealakehe Regional Park was estimated in 2013 to cost $89 million, according to a master plan completed that year. Based on 2018 dollars, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the price tag’s now $96.1 million.
It’s designed to be constructed in four phases with the first phase including covered basketball courts and a tennis complex, and related amenities like paths, roads, parking, landscaping and engineering. Future phases comprise a soccer complex and football/rugby/soccer stadium; a baseball complex; and a great lawn, amphitheater, park administration structures, holua, driving range, dog park, archery range and community gardens.
The county has tried, unsuccessfully, to build the park for decades, according to studies and newspaper articles dating back to 1976.
In 1985, according to the planners, the land was proposed for a Kealakehe Sports Complex with a gym, pool, tennis courts, concert hall, soccer field and scores of other amenities. By 1990, the land was proposed as an 18-hole public golf course and effluent disposal area. Neither was implemented on the state land provided by executive order to the county for a golf course and effluent disposal area.
The most recent effort to bring it to fruition began in 2009 with the planning of Kailua Park. Since, the project has hit numerous speed humps, including a critical habitat designation by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and an aquifer petition by the National Park Service, both of which put the park’s future in jeopardy. It got back on track in 2018.
WHT reporter Nancy Cook Lauer contributed to this report.