Hawaii County is proposing a host of accessibility improvements for Laaloa Beach Park, also known as Magic Sands Beach Park, in Kailua-Kona.
The Department of Parks and Recreation is looking to demolish the current comfort station and replace it with an American with Disabilities Act compliant facility, as well as add ADA-compliant parking. In addition, the proposal calls for new accessible showers; accessible picnic table and barbecue grill; and accessible walkways and ramps connecting the park to Alii Drive and a nearby bus stop.
Also included are related and necessary replacements/improvements to drain sumps, sand interceptors, utility tie-ins and waterlines, pavement reconstruction and restriping, as well as removal of several trees, including two banyans.
“Without these improvements, the park would not be fully accessible, leading to inconvenience for disabled patrons and even the possibility that they would not be able to access many of the park’s facilities at all,” reads a draft environmental assessment for the project that was published April 23, kicking off a 30-day comment period that ends May 26.
The county anticipates a finding of no significant impact for the project, noting in the draft EA that no impacts to terrestrial flora or fauna would occur, and the coastal waters and marine life will be protected by utilizing best management practices.
Further, no archaeological features or other historic properties will be affected.
“Several local residents with long cultural ties to the area believe the project has adverse cultural impacts because of its proximity to the culturally and biologically sensitive shoreline and adjacent cultural sites. The County has attempted to mitigate that impact as much as practical through design measures, buffers and actions that will protect off-site cultural resources,” the document stated.
No project timeline was provided, however, once the EA is finalized and permits are obtained, construction is expected to take about a year, according to the document. The improvements are estimated to cost $930,000.
Despite the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the department said in the draft EA that it has a policy of “continuing to advance projects through pre-construction regulatory review and approval processes.”
“And then, if determined safe and appropriate to do so, incorporate requirements for the safety of construction workers, County staff and the public that would allow construction to proceed in a responsible and safe manner, minimizing public health impacts,” the draft EA reads.
The project does not include work on the parking lot on the southern end of the park that’s been closed since May 2017. That area must be modified to preserve Haukalua Heiau per an agreement with lineal descendants and cultural practitioners, as well as the Hawaii Island Burial Council and the State Historic Preservation Division.
“Between the preservation area buffer and Alii Drive is the former Laaloa Beach Park parking lot, which is no longer in use. Public parking for Laaloa Beach Park is along Alii Drive and within the County-owned, Kipapa Park,” the draft EA reads.
Comments on the draft environmental assessment are due May 26. Comments should be sent to the Hawaii County Department of Parks and Recreation and consultant Geometrician Associates. Addresses can be found in the document.