Posted on: Monday, December 8, 2008
Off-road park closer to reality
Land clearing on Sand Island could begin next month
After lengthy permit-process delays, volunteers hope to start clearing land for a planned off-roaders park in Sand Island as early as next month.
The park won't open with a big splash — as originally planned in summer 2007 — but instead will open in phases, starting with a course for mainly beginner BMX bikers. Courses for all-terrain vehicles, four-wheelers and off-highway motorcycles will follow.
The 32-acre waterfront park is the culmination of a first-of-its-kind partnership between off-roaders of all kinds and the state, which has recognized off-roading as a growing recreational activity.
The park was originally set to open in fall 2007, but it has been plagued with delays.
Part of the problem was officials weren't sure which permits the park needed.
"This is such an out-of-the-box project," said Curt Cottrell, state trail and access program manager, who has been helping set up the Sand Island park.
Cottrell was able to get the plan off the ground with about $30,000 in federal funds, about $14,000 of which has already been spent on design and planning. Most of the grading work, along with operations at the park, will be done by volunteers eager to see the project through.
Cottrell said the park could get the green light as early as January. Once all the approvals are received, construction of a course for BMX riders would start, wrapping up in about two weeks. The park would open to riders for a fee shortly after that.
It would take several additional months for subsequent off-road courses to open.
The state Department of Land and Natural Resources already has given the off-roaders group undertaking the project a two-year lease for the land, next to Sand Island State Park. The two-year period will start once DLNR has approved a right-of-entry permit for the group, likely in January.
The project is designed to curb illegal off-road driving — a longtime problem on remote beaches and other public and private lands statewide. Once completed, the park will be O'ahu's first legal off-road venue for four-wheelers, which is a term that includes anything from sport utility vehicles to monster trucks, and only the second for off-road motorcycles and all-terrain vehicles — small three- or four-wheelers with handlebars.
Off-roaders say the new park will mean less wear and tear on the Kahuku Motocross park, which is full to capacity most weekends, and on hot spots for four-wheelers, including Ka'ena Point. Reid Shimabukuro, who has been instrumental in setting up the Sand Island park, said he is frustrated by the pace of work but confident it will get done.
Shimabukuro added that he has high hopes for the park.
"We're right in the heart of Honolulu," he said.
A fee schedule for the park has not yet been released.
The fees would cover insurance and other incidentals.
The site where the park is planned has never been used, and has no master plan.
In the 1970s, there was some hope of turning it into a recreational area for watercraft, but the idea died. There is a locked gate separating it from Sand Island State Park. An emergency-access road circles the property and provides a buffer between what will be courses and the ocean.
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