Up for bid? Hawaii Island Paddlesports Association, Kona Sailing Club leases in question

  • An array of canoes are stored at the Hawaii Island Paddlesports Association at Honokohau Harbor Wednesday afternoon. (Photos by Chelsea Jensen/West Hawaii Today)

  • Hawaii Senate majority leader Dru Kanuha

  • The BLNR is set to consider a request to put leases currently held by the Hawaii Island Paddlesports Association and the Kona Sailing Club for public auction during their next meeting Friday morning. (Courtesy photo/West Hawaii Today)

  • The Hawaii Island Paddlesports Association’s Freddie B. Berengue Canoe Hale is pictured at Honokohau Harbor Wednesday afternoon.

The futures of the Hawaii Island Paddlesports Association and the Kona Sailing Club are suddenly in doubt.

On the agenda for Friday’s Board of Land and Natural Resources meeting includes a request to authorize the sale of the leases held by each organization at public auction. Both Hawaii Island Paddlesports Association (HIPA) and the Kona Sailing Club (KSC) hold revocable permits adjacent to each other at Honokohau Harbor in North Kona. The action is part of the board’s stated directive to convert revocable permits to long-term arrangements.

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Since the agenda for Friday’s meeting was announced late last week, public response has arisen in opposition of the Department of Land and Natural Resource’s recommendation that each lease be put up for bid. While no organizations have publicly indicated they intend to submit a bid on the leases, DLNR’s permit process states interested parties may inquire about and submit proposals for parcels of land managed under a revocable permit, suggesting at least one organization has done so.

“The email testimony that I’ve seen has been overwhelming,” said HIPA’s vice president Steve Arnett. “There’s just been an amazing groundswell of people who are saying the community benefit is much greater than the money.”

West Hawaii’s representation in the legislature has even voiced opposition. Senate majority leader Dru Kanuha (D-Kona, Ka’u) has pressed DLNR to put any action on hold until HIPA and KSC gain 501(c)3 nonprofit status from the IRS.

“I’ve asked DLNR for a deferment of their action to put those leases for public auction and have indicated that I’m not in favor of what they’re trying to do,” said Kanuha. “I hope they take that into consideration. Not only my ask, but the hundreds of community members as well that were shocked to hear of this at such short notice.”

While an independent appraisal for DLNR determined fair market rent at between 2.35 and 2.5 times what each organization is currently paying — $733.93 per month by HIPA and $1,627.72 by KSC, according to DLNR — Kona residents insist the community value of HIPA and KSC more than make up for any monetary deficit. Both organizations have been part of Kona’s community for decades: KSC since 1980 and HIPA since 2000.

“We do understand Kona is the attraction: perfect weather, blue ocean, marlins, dolphins, sunsets,” said HIPA member Eddie Hayward. “But we can’t forget that there is a culture that still exists in Kona, and it’s the Hawaiian culture.”

Hayward brought light to the issue with a video posted to social media on Monday — since shared more than 200 times — highlighting the facilities and the safety provided by Honokohau Harbor that are a rarity along the Kona coast.

“I was there at the beginning when this thing was created,” he said. “It’s been such a great outlet for us because there’s not too many places here in Kona where we, as paddlers with that type of vessel, can actually access the ocean freely and safely. Everything on the Kohala coast or the Kona coast is too rugged for us.”

Moving forward, BLNR has multiple routes that could be taken. Friday’s meeting and agenda items regarding the leases could go on as scheduled, with action being taken to authorize or not authorize the public auction. Another option includes publicly withdrawing the items from the agenda either prior to or at the meeting, effectively postponing any decision. Finally, the items could be heard, but a decision may be deferred until a future date.

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DLNR declined to comment on the items going before the BLNR at Friday’s meeting.

The meeting is scheduled to start at 9 a.m. on Friday live via Zoom and YouTube. Those interested in submitting verbal or written testimony may request to do so no later than 24 hours prior to the meeting at blnr.testimony@hawaii.gov. The link to watch the meeting on YouTube is http://youtube.com/c/boardoflandandnaturalresourcesdlnr.

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