A draft environmental assessment was published Monday for accessibility improvements the county has planned at Kolekole Beach Park.
The 406-page draft document, prepared by Ron Terry of Geometrician Associates, anticipates a finding of no significant impact posed by the project.
The park improvements include: converting existing restrooms into single-occupant Americans with Disabilities Act-accessible restrooms and upgrading the existing associated septic system; building a new ADA-accessible comfort station with septic system; demolishing a pavilion, building another, and repairing the remaining pavilions; replacing the shower and picnic tables with ADA-accessible facilities; developing an on-site potable water system and fire protection water system; repaving and bolstering the driveway and parking lot, including ADA-accessible parking spaces; remediation of lead-contaminated soil; plus landscaping and drainage work.
The 5.5-acre park off Highway 19 in Honomu, about 11 miles north of Hilo, has been closed since April 2017 after high amounts of lead were found in the soil there.
The lead contamination is thought to have been caused by lead-based paint flaking from support pillars of a bridge on Highway 19 that spans Kolekole Gulch above the park. The state Department of Transportation bears the primary responsibility for cleaning up the lead, and according to the draft EA, the “issue is being addressed through interagency cooperation.”
County Councilwoman Valerie Poindexter, whose district encompasses the park site, said the Department of Parks and Recreation “is moving along in a time frame I think is acceptable.”
Poindexter said the holdup, however, is the state DOT “dragging their feet.”
“This park should’ve been opened last year, at the latest. At the latest, I think, it should have been opened at the end of summer. At the latest. We had all the studies done,” Poindexter said. “The state Department of Transportation, they’re holding us up on two parks, so far, you know — Kolekole and Hakalau Beach Park.”
Lead contamination linked to paint chipping from another bridge also caused the closure of the Hakalau park.
Deputy Parks Director James Komata said in a Wednesday email there’s “no lead cleanup required of the (DOT ) prior to start of the county’s park improvement project.”
“It is our intent to have the state’s lead-soil remediation scope incorporated with the county’s construction work to minimize the duration of the park’s closure and take advantage of efficiencies of scale and in managing one project versus two,” Komata said.
A number of permits are required from the county and state for the project.
Construction, which is expected to take about a year, will begin shortly after the final EA is complete and the necessary permits are obtained. The estimated price tag of the project is $2.5 million.
Deadline for public comments on the draft EA is March 24.
“Based on the quantity of responses and the nature of the content of the comments, we will determine whether finalizing the EA is the appropriate course of action,” Komata said. “We also need to provide responses to all comments and include such in any subsequent publication. All of this will influence if we issue a final EA and when that will be published. Best case scenario is the final EA could be published in the April 8 edition of the Environmental Notice.”
Komata said he anticipates starting construction in October or November this year.
“However, this is subject to successful completion of the environmental review processes, regulatory agency approvals, issuance of necessary permits and a trouble-free procurement process,” he said. “Any glitches or unanticipated issues could adversely affect that projection. If we can start construction sooner, that is our preference.”
The Tribune-Herald reached out to the DOT for comment but didn’t receive a reply in time for publication of this story.
The draft EA can be found online at http://bit.ly/kolekoleEA.
Public comments are to be emailed to Kevin Sakai at the county Department of Parks and Recreation at email@example.com and copied to consultant Ron Terry at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Email John Burnett at email@example.com.