KAILUA-KONA — Kamehameha Schools, which owns 54 acres at Keauhou Bay, is developing a management plan intended to move traffic and commercial operations away from historic sites and reduce pressure on the bayfront’s resources.
“It really isn’t about bringing any new activity to the site as much as it is re-organizing the activity that’s there,” said Marissa Harman, director of asset management for Hawaii Island within Kamehameha Schools’ Community Engagement and Resources Group.
Harman said there aren’t any imminent plans for the bay and while they have been meeting with stakeholders and have had initial meetings with the county’s Planning Department, permitting is likely at least two years away.
Kamehameha Schools’ property in the area consists of several individual parcels. Between the cultural and natural resources along with shoreline access and commercial operators present at the bay that bring out visitors and community groups, it’s a lot of pressure focused in a small area.
“When you have all of these different users, it’s often challenging to manage it within this confined natural space,” Harman said.
As an example, she pointed to the pressures on the birth site of Kauikeaouli, who would become Kamehameha III, which is owned and maintained by The Daughters of Hawaii. The birth site itself is located across the road from facilities used by commercial tour operators, and Harman said the close quarters mean delivery trucks coming to those buildings often back right up to a site of immense cultural importance.
“And those are the things that are really, I think, hard for us to reconcile current, modern-day impacts to these very rich cultural, historic sites,” Harman said.
To get a better hold on management of the various uses at and around the bay, Kamehameha Schools has been working to develop a plan for Keauhou Bay, and in September, offered the final concept of its Keauhou Bay Management Plan to its stakeholders, a group that includes cultural descendants, Hawaiian civic organizations, commercial operators and state and county agencies.
Recommendations included with a concept map and brochure provided by Kamehameha Schools focus on opening up the bayfront and shoreline by pushing vehicle and pedestrian traffic farther away from the shoreline, relocating the existing commercial operations away from significant and sensitive sites and expanding Kailiilinehe Beach Park — the beach located at the north side of the bay — “as the entry to an open-space, shoreline corridor.”
The existing bayfront facilities would be repurposed to support educational programs, and commercial operators would be moved to an area off Ehukai Street south of the bay.
The map also includes a plan to improve Old Kona Road — that road starts near where Holua Road meets Kamehameha III Road, travels behind the current site of the Keauhou Canoe Club and comes out close to where Kaleiopapa Street meets Ehukai Street —and re-establish it as a the main roadway for vehicles in the area. There are also recommendations for improvements to both the existing parking area and boat storage facility off Kamehameha III Road as well as for a new boat trailer parking area off Old Kona Road and Kaleiopapa Street.
There’s also potential for what’s identified in the recommendations as a “sustainable, low-rise boutique resort” in the resort-zoned area on the plateau above the bay.
“At this point it’s an idea,” Harman said. “We have no one that we’re partnering with to move it forward, but we wanted to include that in the concept as part of the overall commercial outlook for the area.”
A statement from Kamehameha Schools said income from the commercial activities, which could also, according to the brochure, include “commercial kipuka” or pockets of commercial activity, will go toward supporting Kamehameha Schools’ efforts as well as supporting the educational and cultural components of the management plan.
The map also calls for a reorientation of the Keauhou Canoe Club, but doesn’t make reference to the future of the sand volleyball courts in the area, an omission that caught the attention of some who have been circulating and signing a petition addressed to Kamehameha Schools.
As of Friday evening, the petition had 132 supporters.
It calls on Kamehameha Schools to either let the Keauhou Volleyball Association keep the volleyball courts and work with the group to improve them or relocate and re-establish the courts “to a similar location at or near Keauhou Bay that will still allow access to the ocean and a ‘beach-like’ setting.”
Harman said they haven’t yet had detailed conversations with the Keauhou Volleyball Association about the courts, but said they have been included during the planning process. She said the courts would be a part of the discussion about reorientation of that part of the shoreline, but that “no decisions have been made.”
Dave Smith, a member of the Keauhou Volleyball Association, said he’s “hopefully confident” there will be a resolution everyone can be on board with.
While he wasn’t able to attend the most recent stakeholder meeting, Smith said Kamehameha Schools had recently indicated to him that they plan to set up another meeting in the future.
He said Harman told him on Thursday that Kamehameha Schools hasn’t finalized any details about their development plans and before doing so they would get to sit down with the volleyball association to discuss what those plans were.
Harman emphasized that the plan is still a concept at this point, saying it still needs to go through the various stages with the appropriate government agencies, a process which itself will offer opportunities for input from the larger community.
She also said the community shouldn’t anticipate seeing any major changes at Keauhou Bay within this year.
“The only thing you’ll see is our continued maintenance of our cultural sites and our natural resources, if not increased stewardship of those sites,” she said. “That probably would be the only thing in the near-term future, is more care of our sites.”