Construction on the second phase of the Hilo Bayfront Trails project is expected to begin by the end of the year, said organizers Thursday.
“In discussions with the mayor’s office, we cleared all of our final county and federal funding,” said Matthias Kusch, vice president of Hilo Bayfront Trails Inc., the nonprofit spearheading the effort to build a shared-use pathway throughout the Bayfront area and, ultimately, out to Hilo Harbor.
Kusch and a small group of Hilo Bayfront Trails board members, county leaders and donors gathered Thursday on a section of trail near Kamehameha Avenue and Pauahi Street — completed during the first phase of the project — to announce phase two.
Permitting also is complete, he said, “so that’s really important, and that’s taken a long time. Once that’s all done, then we’ll go out to bid, which may or may not take a couple months. But we’re hoping by the end of the year that we (will) see construction.”
The existing first phase of the trails was completed in late 2016 and consists of three separate sections: from Mooheau Park to Pauahi Street, from Pauahi Street to the Bayfront canoe hale and from Pauahi Street to the Bayfront soccer fields. Together, the sections total 5,125 feet.
Phase two will be just a little more than 2,100 linear feet and will complete a loop with the existing trail near the Bayfront soccer fields and extend a path downtown behind Ben Franklin Crafts, where there is a “beautiful pond,” the remnant of an ancient pond and estuary, according to Kusch.
“Plus, it’ll bring everybody into the Kilauea (Avenue) and Ponahawai (Street) intersection, which is one of the primary points of the downtown.”
Phase two will cost approximately $440,000.
Hilo Bayfront Trails is responsible for $65,000 of that anticipated cost, a federal grant from the National Park Service will cover $220,000 and the county will cover the remaining $155,000.
The Edmund Olson Trust also committed a $250,000 match of local donors for the trail’s construction.
The group received the federal grant for phase two a year ago, “except this little thing came up,” Kusch said, referencing the 2018 eruption of Kilauea volcano in lower Puna. “Within two weeks of getting the grant, Armageddon happened, and everything ground to a halt.”
The project, he said, had to “take a backseat for a while. But now we’re getting some energy again.”
Kusch smiled when he was asked how it feels to see phase two move forward.
“Excellent,” he said. “I’m so happy for Mr. and Mrs. Olson’s commitment in helping us achieve that goal, because honestly it would not happen.”
Ed Olson said he supported the project “just because I was able to do it. I thought it was a great idea.”
“People had the vision, and Ed likes to give support to people that have good visions,” said his wife, Sam Olson.
County Council Chairman Aaron Chung said the trails project was supported by former Mayor Billy Kenoi and that support is continuing with Mayor Harry Kim’s administration.
“Being continued by the present administration just underscores the importance of all this through not just the present community, but the generations to come,” he said.
Hilo Bayfront Tails also is beginning work on phase three and the Banyan Drive loop.
According to the organization, phase three will help connect the University of Hawaii at Hilo and surrounding neighborhoods to downtown, while the Banyan Drive loop will provide a scenic route for cruise ship visitors and the Keaukaha community to downtown.
“I’m ecstatic,” said Hilo Bayfront Trails Treasurer Amy Self about phase two work beginning. “I’m really waiting for phase three. That’s my baby. I’m determined that that one will get done. I see university students having to ride their bicycles on sidewalks, which is dangerous for pedestrians. To have a safe route for them to come down to downtown, it would just be wonderful.”
“These trails will have a life span of at least 50 years, and probably more like 75-plus,” Kusch said. “These are very robust trails, built with extra concrete and reinforcement … .”
Hilo Bayfront Trails recently procured a new sandblasting machine that can inscribe donor names on the trail, which will serve as the group’s primary fundraising effort for the next two phases.
For a donation of $500, donors can put their name, a phrase or business name on a 12-by-12-foot concrete section of trail. To donate or for more information, visit hilobayfronttrails.org.
Email Stephanie Salmons at firstname.lastname@example.org.