I thought the fight was already lost, but it seems it is still up for debate whether or not the county/ state should acquire O’oma II to protect it as public, open space. Considering how important the area around Pine Trees is -how precious the waters and how vital this surf / recreational / camping area is for families and to the community- it’s about time they listen to the people. Stop selling out! With so much building being done in an already overcrowded Kona (these projects adding even more traffic), with most of the precious coastal areas being taken over by rich landowners/corporations to do with as they please, the state better hurry up and protect what they can! And the O’oma acquisition should have been a top priority.
Having worked at a business in Kona a few years ago, where I had direct contact with the then new owners / developers of Kohanaiki, and I tried to explain to one of them why the area was so essential to the people here. His position, as big business often seems to be, was that he was doing the people here a favor, “we’re offering the local people jobs.” And in exchange? More vacation homes for wealthy mainlanders, development and golf courses (fertilizers, pesticides) to pollute the coastal ecosystem (will it eventually contaminate the Big Island’s top exports, precious Kona deep seawater?), and limited public access to places you and your families grew up enjoying. I tried to explain, “No, you don’t understand, hundreds of moms and dads and kids go in and out of Pine Trees every day. It’s their place, to fish and surf and barbecue and camp!” Even with the 120 parking places they promised to include, you put in 500 new homes, make it accessible to all vehicles (not just trucks), you think surfers are going to get to park there? You think it’s ever going to have the raw feel it used to? That you will still be able to find the solace and peace. Even as a public access beach, it’ll be more like Kukio, catering to tourists and the rich. Anyway, he seemed like a nice man, but it was strange to me that he had no idea about the place. And how the intense level of public concern never even reached him. How could that be? I mean, the first thing they did was cut the “Pine Trees” down! Like a slap in the face! This is a jewel of the West side Big Island and stewardship of essential lands should not handed over to people who out of ignorance, arrogance, and/or financial aspirations do not have an understanding of the environment and the true best interests of the local people. (And hey, let’s keep the ball rolling, just yesterday surfers, environmentalist, and concerned citizens won a victory in saving Trestles in Cali from what seemed like imminent demise!)
Sierra Club rep Janice Palma-Glennie, who has been working diligently on the matter, explains the situation….
For some reason, Mayor Kim and other County officials have gotten it in their heads that when island residents said they supported the protection of O`oma II as Public, Open Space, that they meant only a strip of the coastline should be protected for the public. Wherever did they get that idea?? We must convince them — once and for all — that island residents want O`oma II to be set aside and protected in its entirety — NOW!! — before continued up-zoning of the property makes it increasingly difficult and more expensive for the Public to acquire the property.
Until funding is available for acquisition, O`oma II needs to be returned to its previous “Open” County status. The Kim administration pushed a successful upzoning of the land to “Urban Expansion”, despite public outcry. That change took it farther from the State’s most protective, reasonable, “Conservation” designation of the area.
YOUR HELP IS NEEDED IMMEDIATELY TO HELP PROTECT O`OMA II AS PUBLIC, OPEN SPACE.
The good news: O`oma II has moved up the County’s list to the top 5 places to be acquired as public open space! Your letters, petitions, and calls to State and County officials have helped bring O`oma II’s protection closer to being a reality.
The could-be-better news: As logical as it might seem, government leaders seem to forget that you, your ohana, and your quality of life depends upon the protection of treasured natural and cultural resources (since they hear just the opposite from paid development consultants on a daily basis).
HOW YOU CAN HELP:
1. Please sign the petition by FEBRUARY 8TH, 12:00pm. Email Janice firstname.lastname@example.org
2. Write to Mayor Kim (email@example.com) and the County Planning Director (Chris Yuen at CYUEN@co.hawaii.hi.us) NO LATER THAN THIS FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 8TH. Ask them to honor island residents‚ wishes, protect island culture, and preserve the integrity of Hawai`i Island‚s coastal environment by acquiring O`oma II as public, open space ASAP. Please email copy of your testimony to Janice (firstname.lastname@example.org) so she can hand them to the Mayor on Monday.
3. Attend upcoming Open Space Commission meetings:
In Hilo on Monday, February 11th at 10:00am in Hilo (Mayor Kim scheduled to attend). Location is the Dept of Liquor Control Conference Room, Suite 230. In Kona on Monday, March 10, at 10:00am at the Department of Liquor Control Conference Room, 75-5722 Hanama Place, Suite 1107. (Mayor Kim is not scheduled to attend.)
4. Fill out an Open Space suggestion form (use TMKs and description of location of property above) to let the commission know that O`oma II is a special place that needs to be prioritized for protection by the County as open, public space. Protect the coastline from haphazard, damaging, over-development.
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Below is a letter sent by West side CGW wahine (and very talented artist) Jing Jing Tsong:
My name is Jing Jing Tsong, I live in Kailua Kona. Thank you for taking the time to listen to/read my testimony.
I am a teacher, musician, artist and a surfer. One of the reasons my family and I moved here several years ago is that the Hawai’ian culture is deeply in touch with nature. Aloha ‘aina, aloha kai is something we live every day.
I spend part of almost every day in the O‘oma area and the waters off it. Whether I am surfing, swimming, whale watching or walking, this daily experience, gives me intimacy with the rhythms of nature, this island and myself.
I, as well as everyone else who surfs, perpetuates the ancient Hawai’ian culture of he‘e nalu. For many of us, surfing is not a sport, it is a spiritual experience which inspires us in many ways. For me, the daily contact with the ocean and the views of Hualalai and Mauna Loa inspire me to take responsibility in holding the philosophy of aloha ‘aina, aloha kai true.
This is the last stretch of open space where there is true public access. On weekends and holidays you see gatherings of extended families and friends. Those of us who are there regularly watch out for each other’s kids. There is a true sense of ohana here. From fishing, to camping, to surfing to family reunions and cookouts, the O‘oma area offers respite from the development that is restricting access to the shoreline. At this convergence of land and ocean, there is also a convergence of community. This is invaluable.
My main concerns about the proposed O‘oma development:
1) We can not afford another “public access” beach like Hualalai, Kuki‘o, Mauna Kea or Hoku‘lia. These highly developed resorts are beautiful, but they do not offer true access. The experience they offer does not embrace community. The limited parking in each of these areas is proof of that. Both visitors and locals are looking for an authentic connection with nature. O‘oma in it’s current natural state is a treasure that needs to be preserved just for this reason.
2) The Class AA waters off the O’oma waters are, in this world, a rare experience. Everyone who has the honor of spending time in the water comments on how clean it is. With the proposed development, pesticide and fertilizer run-off from the golf-course are threats we can not risk. Reef damage is irreparable. The reef’s health is integral to the quality of life in the waters. This in turn is integral to the experience of both locals and visitors.
3) As the infrastructure exists now, it can not handle the additional traffic of the proposed development. Because it would be under private ownership, O’oma would not be part of the community that is already suffering rapid erosion. If development is approved, it needs to be with a commitment to schools, parks, cultural center, roads and affordable housing. Shoreline areas have become a playground of the elite. O‘oma should be preserved as a symbol of Hawaii’an values, not of real estate investment values.
The O‘oma area is a place that I care about deeply. I ask you to consider how many people in the community feel the same way. I appreciate the time you’ve taken to review my testimony. Aloha.