Access for all
Dear Mayor Harry Kim: You have stated that beach access is very important for the community. I agree wholeheartedly! Enjoying the ocean is such a great part of life here.
Unfortunately, there is a segment of your residents and visitors for whom such access has never been provided near Hilo. These are people with disabilities, especially those with mobility and vision impairments for whom a safe, accessible route to get into the ocean, as required by the Americans with Disabilities Act, has never been built.
Such an ADA-compliant access, where a disabled individual could swim under the watchful eye of a lifeguard, could only be reasonably achieved at Richardson Ocean Park. At this location, the crucial part that is missing for ADA access to get into the ocean is a safe paved path from the parking lot and driveway to the beach entry. The bathrooms also need some improvements.
This project has been studied and studied again, designed, redesigned, studied again, shoreline permits were obtained at a snail’s pace, potential grave sites had to be identified, etc. I have been watching this for 20 years now.
In early 2015, representatives of the county Parks and Recreation Department came to a meeting of Disability Rights Hawaii with plans in hand: All the permits were obtained, the graves were nowhere near the project, funding was in place and a contract was awarded! I nearly fell off my chair!
But wait: They were just waiting for the final stamp of approval from the Historic Preservation office, and they were planning to start the work in April 2015. And then nothing happened, complete silence, and the contract lapsed.
Mr. Mayor: This is a civil rights violation that has festered for decades now. We have heard that the Historic Preservation folks are waiting for the Burial Council to act, but this agency cannot meet for lack of a quorum!
We are held hostage by dysfunctional agencies whose members probably get taxpayer-funded salaries.
Mr. Mayor, get this project going now. Here we are, three years later and everyone seems to have forgotten about it. You might recall that the disabled community had to go to federal court already twice in order to get curb-cuts in the sidewalks and to get any of the parks to be made ADA accessible.
Do not force us to do this for the third time. Make 2018 a happy year for all of us.
Adrienne S. Dey