Laaloa park renovations to include parking lot reduction or removal

  • MAX DIBLE/West Hawaii Today The parking lot at Laaloa Beach Park has been closed for renovations for more than a year.

KAILUA-KONA — The county Parks and Recreation Department closed the main parking lot at Kailua-Kona’s Laaloa Beach Park, popularly known as Magic Sands, in May 2017, announcing plans to reconfigure and reduce lot capacity with an initial timeline of about 18 months.

Fourteen months later, nothing has changed and no work has been initiated. And based on the project plan Mayor Harry Kim chooses, the lot might not come back at all.

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Barett Otani, spokesman for the county Department of Public Works, said in an email that his department will assist Parks and Recreation once a plan is in place, but added a timeline has yet to be provided. Roxcie Waltjen, director of Parks, said that’s about to change.

“It’s going to be moving forward real soon,” Waltjen said, adding the project is currently in the “conceptual, planning stages.”

She couldn’t provide a precise timeline but said the project is on Kim’s radar. Waltjen met with the mayor Monday to go over a preliminary sketch of the new layout preceding discussions Kim has planned with stakeholders.

“From there, we’re going to go to a public hearing and then try to move forward with the whole project,” Waltjen said.

She explained the parking lot work is just the first phase in what she called the “Laaloa Park expansion project,” which will include adding walking spaces and a restoration of the natural landscape in the area. The concept was first introduced in the 1990s.

Waltjen said current plans for the parking lot reduction and natural expansion are based on a historic preservation plan provided in a 2006 report.

The county must modify the parking lot in the interest of preserving the Haukalua Heiau as per an agreement with lineal descendants and cultural practitioners, as well as the Hawaii Island Burial Council and the State Historic Preservation Division.

The delay in the project revolves around finalizing decisions, Waltjen said.

Initially, a reduced parking lot was planned as a buffer for the heiau. However, proposals exist that would do away with the parking lot altogether and transform it into more of a gathering area. These are the issues Kim wants to iron out with the people and organizations with a stake in the project, Waltjen said.

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She added the project budget remains fluid and won’t be finalized until these decisions are made.

Email Max Dible at mdible@westhawaiitoday.com.