The future of the Na Hoa Holomoku of Hawaii Yacht Club might be scuttled after the county Department of Parks and Recreation ordered the club to move its boats off of Hilo Bayfront shores.
Approximately 35 vessels of the sailing club will have to move from their resting places on the Bayfront beach near the mouth of the Wailoa River next week unless the club can make an arrangement with Parks and Recreation.
Richard Greever, vice commodore of the club, said the club has kept its boats on the Bayfront beach the past seven years, thanks to an agreement with the University of Hawaii at Hilo. The university’s own sailing club keeps its boats at the same location and have allowed the Na Hoa Holomoku Club to leave its boats there as well.
Unexpectedly, Parks and Recreation issued a letter to UH-Hilo on April 20 ordering the university to remove all its boats — including the yacht club’s boats — from the shoreline by April 29 in order to make way for beach cleaning.
When Greever asked the department when the club would be allowed to return their boats, he was told “there is no plan to allow you to come back,” he said.
“We don’t have any place to move to,” Greever said. “This will totally kill the club.”
Greever said unless the move can be avoided, the club’s boats will need to be stored at whatever locations are available, scattering them throughout East Hawaii.
“And they’ll stay there until we have a new place or until they’re sold,” Greever said sadly.
Greever said the owners of canoes on the beach have not been ordered to move.
Parks and Recreation Director Roxcie Waltjen said the beach needs to be cleaned in advance of the International Va‘a Federation’s outrigger canoe World Sprint Championships in 2020. In addition, many of the boats on the beach — including the yacht club’s boats — do not have legal documentation confirming they are allowed to be there.
“They probably had a verbal contract with the past director,” Waltjen said. However, she said that some boats on the beach do not belong to either UH-Hilo or the Na Hoa Holomoku Yacht Club, but remain on the beach illegally, with some people even operating businesses from their boats.
Waltjen said the presence of unlisted boats can pose an issue in the event of an emergency. If the beach needed to be cleared quickly, knowing who owns boats on the beach would be essential, she said.
UH-Hilo removed its boats from the Bayfront on Friday — “It seems they’re not willing to fight the county on this,” Greever said — but the club will keep its boats on-site pending the outcome of a meeting next week.
Waltjen said the department will meet with representatives from the yacht club and UH-Hilo on May 7 to work out a memorandum of understanding regarding the situation.
“We’re not trying to disband any sailing club,” Waltjen said, adding that if the yacht club needs more time to move its boats, they are welcome to it. Waltjen also said the department is looking at alternate sites to keep the boats.
Greever said he hopes the club will be able to remain where it is.
“What got me interested in the club was that it was a low-cost way to get into sailing,” Greever said. “That doesn’t really exist anywhere else on the Big Island.”
“I just hope this is all just a big mistake,” Greever said. “I have my fingers crossed.”
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