KAILUA-KONA — Kua Bay will be opening later next week as the state begins prep to station lifeguards at the beach park.
The Department of Parks and Recreation said Friday that the park will open at noon on Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday, instead of the normal 8 a.m. opening time. The park will be open normal hours, from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m., Monday, Thursday and the weekend.
“We thank the people for their understanding and patience, in allowing us to prepare the location for added safety to our swimmers and beach goers who visit Kua Bay,” said Dean Takebayashi, DLNR Hawaii Island State Parks superintendent.
Funding to bring lifeguards to the beach was approved this past legislative session with $480,000 being added at the last minute to the state budget, House Bill 116. It came about six years after legislators began the effort to bring full-time life-saving personnel to the North Kona state beach known for its beauty and danger.
The appropriation was added to the budget in April just hours after House Bill 558, which had made it through both chambers of the Legislature, died following three days of consideration before a Water, Land and Hawaiian Affairs conference committee.
That bill, co-introduced by Lowen and Rep. David Tarnas (D-North Kona, South and North Kohala) among others, made it the farthest of any bill introduced to secure lifeguards at Kua Bay has since 2013.
The popular, yet perilous, North Kona beach once required a lengthy hike in or a four-wheel-drive vehicle to access until 2005 when a nearby developer completed paved access to and amenities at the site as part of a community benefit assessment. The state has since added improvements, most recently picnicking areas and concrete stairs to the south end of the beach.
The beach was identified by the state as the next site to receive lifeguards due to it having “the most reported spinal cord injuries,” according to testimony by DLNR Chairwoman Suzanne Case. Per the Hawaii Department of Health, 32 people required treatment at Kua Bay from 2013 to 2018 with 30 needing transport to a hospital. All but three of those sent to the hospital suffered traumatic injuries.