POSTED: 26 JULY 2006 - 10:00am HST

Kealia Beach area Bike Path Update

view north of highway brige over Kealia Stream from proposed bike path

The Scandal within a Scandal, within a Scandal
Otherwise known as the Great Kauai Bike Path
by Ray Chuan 24 July 2006

There has been much turmoil at the County Council, with Council members Mel Rapozo and Shaylene Iseri-Carvalho demanding to know from the Administration the whole story of what is going on and around Kealia Beach, where beach goers and motorists driving by have witnesses huge amount of activities: moving and piling mountains of soil and sundry sizes of rocks all along the beach and up to the State Highway’s Ocean Lookout; but no sign of anything that remotely looks like a bike path – but, instead, nine structures under construction that look like pavilions and two larger skeleton structures that look like Comfort Stations in progress--all scattered among several large mountains of soil, rocks of all descriptions and what appear to be concrete structures for supporting either water or drainage pipes.

Could this be the real intended place for improving a Bike Path that would eventually cost the taxpayers (paying federal, state and county taxes) to the tune of reportedly $48 million. Of course, this is but a fraction of the Grand Design, being promoted by Mayor Baptiste and his legions of spokespersons, of an Around the Island Bike Path. The long suffering tax payers of this island are reminded that they only have to pay 20% of the millions, the feds putting up the rest. 20% of $50 million is no small change; and $10 million of the local taxpayers contribution could well be used for fixing the pot holes and building some highways improvements that will certainly be needed when that Poster Child of the future of Kauai across the already congested highway from the Safeway Market mall is completed soon.

For about the past two months motorists approaching Kealia Beach can’t help but notice the huge amounts of dirt being piled along the makai side of Kuhio Highway, right up to the rusting guardrails. Some were speculating that maybe this was the beginning of the new Bike Path, since they haven’t seen anything that remotely looked like the Grand Bike Path. Not so, said Steve Kyono of the State Highway Division. That is for the construction of a “Left Turn Storage Lane” to relieve the hazardous condition created when someone wants to make a left turn into the Island’s only Oceanside Scenic Lookout! Good for the DOT!! So we continue on our quest for the Grand Bike Path.

Voila! There it is! Or, rather, there it is, STILL! A bit in need of an (presumably $48 million) improvement job; but nevertheless serving the public well, judging by the many hikers and fishermen using it daily. On one Sunday, for two hours during mid-day, I counted exactly one guy standing by his bicycle.

The physical evidence compels one to conclude, or surmise, that the Great Bike Path is really a brand new Keallia Beach Park masquerading as the Bike Path. Which is fine, because there is no question that this is a most popular spot for both locals and visitors, being the only significant stretch of sandy beach which is also directly accessible from a major highway on the East Shore of Kauai. Despite the lack of the usual amenities common to a major beach park, including such basic necessities as potable water and “comfort stations”, hundreds and, on weekends thousands of locals and visitors crowd into this place. When asked how often the two porta-potties (one for handicapped) get cleaned, none of the Life Guards could remember ever seeing them cleaned.

So, why not just say this county needs a beach park and build it?? Well, there are some rather basic problems. Number one, the county does not own any of the land at Kealia Beach. Openly announcing that the county needs to build a much needed beach park here would require such bothersome actions as: Grading permits; County SMA (Special Management Area) permits; the state for CDUP (Conservation District Use Permit) – all these the bane of all developers; plus: Environmental Assessment, Environmental Impact Statement, the latter requiring a study of the Cumulative Impacts of the whole enterprise (in our case, the entire around the island Bike Path). All these impediments would disappear, or at least be reduced to a bare minimum, when the enterprise is advertised locally as a mere Bike Path; and assuring the Feds, at the same time, that it is a Transportation System that happens to include a bike path, thus securing 80% of the $48 million cost from the Federal Government. What Genius!!

So far the Great Bike Path only goes from Lydgate Park to Anahola. If it is to go all the way from there to Ahukini, the county would have to deal with the owner of the 400 acres of ag land that extends from Nukoli`i (where the present Outrigger Hotel stands) to the north bank of the Hanamaulu Stream. To the master craftsman of this whole enterprise – Doug Haigh, head of the Building Division of the County Public Works Department – it’s no big deal to get an easement from Mr. Moody of Las Vegas, the owner of the 400 acres, for a strip along the shores of his property. If Mr. Moody desists, we’ll just condemn the needed land, according to Mr. Haigh who is either an optimist or does not know anything about the history of how Mr. Moody came to own those 400 acres. I digress here, out of necessity to tie together the intricate network of scandals surrounding this Grand Bike Path.

About three years ago a developer from Las Vegas by the name of Moody conceived this grand plan of developing the 400 acres of ag land between Nukoli`i and Ahukini into a mixture of resorts and residential properties. His plans were presented to the Planning Commission for approval by Walton Hong, the well known attorney who has served developers well on this island for many years. The room where the public hearing was to be held was packed to the rafters by locals from the Hanamaulu area. I was not there, because I figured it was a done deal, as it clearly appeared to be, seeing how smoothly the whole enterprise had progressed. The day after the public hearing I was called by a former member of the County Council who asked why I wasn’t there at the hearing. I told him simply that I though it obviously was a done deal so it would have been a waste of time. My friend said, “But I was there!” How come? Do you remember the Nukoli`i Incident? Vaguely, because that was long before I came to the island; but how do you know so much about this when you were almost a kid when the local people revolted against the Nukoli`i development?

To keep the story short, the Hilton Hotel wanted to build there on parts of a large piece of agricultural land. Their plan called for dividing the large piece into two parts, with the part from Nukoli`i northward to be used for the Hilton Hotel, the dividing line being what is today the tree-lined road leading from Kuhio Highway to what is now called the Radisson. Under the very strict state protecting agricultural land, a large piece of ag land could only be subdivided once, presumably to prevent from developers from cutting up large ag lots into hundreds of subdivisions for residential and commercial purposes. Well, the 400 acres Mr. Moody actually had bought, being so confident that he would get the necessary permits to implement his plans, which were in a published document over an inch thick. (In any transaction of this magnitude the purchase would have been conditioned on the intended buyer getting the necessary permits first.)

My friend’s brief statement to the Planning Commission merely reminded them the property in question could not, under the law be subdivided again, having been created under the One Time Subdivision Rule. His one-page statement caused the Commission to close the public hearing, which essentially put a stop to the whole affair. Did everybody involved in this, including the lawyer, the Planning Director and the Planning Commission, forget or did not know of the One Time Subdivision Rule? Or did they all have a temporary lapse in their collective and individual memories? Such questions were never asked. The Moody project simply disappeared; and Mr. Moody still owned the 400 acres.

So Doug Haigh thinks it’s no big deal to get an easement from Moody, as he alluded to the County Council when the question came up as to how his project was going to go beyond Nukoli`i. to Hanamaulu. Or is he going to forget that part of the Grand Bike Path, lest it may cause the excavation of some old bones? We shall see. We shall see. See what ?

See how Dough and Mayor Baptiste are going to pull out the right kind of rabbit out of a hat, that’s what!

Well, since these guys are so good at conning people out of big bucks, especially from the Feds, maybe they can get a few million bucks to buy the 400 acres from an un-cooperative Mr. Moody.

No, I shouldn’t say “un-cooperative.” With a few million dollars dangling he would be very happy to get out of the fix he is in now. And all the players can go happily forward to the tune of “Hi Ho, Hi Ho; It’s Off to Work We Go!! Bike Path! Bike Path!”

But…Hold it!! What to do about all those mountains of dirt, all the vertical cuts of hills bordering the ocean so as to widen the old Cane Haul Road so as to accommodate bikers, hikers, fishermen and equestrians. What if the rains come and the hillsides – dirt and rocks all – rush into the ocean, creating a big time violation of the Federal Clean Water Act that could be worse than what happened at Pila`a a few years ago as Jimmy Pflueger did essentially what Doug Haigh is busy doing now? In a telephone conversation initiated by Doug we talked about these hazards. Doug agreed that he had been lucky that there hadn’t been any heavy rain or high surf so far; but that he had put in some protective measures after The Shadow (aka Jerome Freitas) showed him some pictures back in May of some of these troubled spots. Good for Doug! Let’s hope these measures will do the job.
(See images 10-13)

In the mean time, the County Council, at the insistence of members Isera-Carvalho and Mel Rapozo, has asked the Administration for a complete report on the entire Bike Path Project.
The Mayor, County Engineer Donald Fujimoto and Building Division Chief Dog Haig have asked for a five-week deferral; the Council would only agree to two weeks.

Let’s see if the Trio can pull another rabbit out of their hat by rushing most of the major components of the Great Bike Path to completion – creating a “fait accompli” before facing the Council, and praying that there won’t be any heavy rainfall or high surf.

Good luck, Doug!!

see also
Island Breath: Kauai Bike Network

Island Breath: Bike Path - Ahukini to Lydgate Route