Puna Parks Improvement Project, Island of Hawai‘i

In January 1983, Kilauea Volcano began erupting on its east rift zone. By May 1990, lava flows had covered an area of approximately 30 square miles in the Puna District of the County of Hawai‘i. The lava flows destroyed nearly 200 residences and other structures, filled in the Kalapana oceanfront area, and moved the shoreline over a half-mile makai. In addition, lava flows buried three Hawai‘i County parks, destroying about 50 acres of County land, including nearly 28 acres of beachfront property with 1.35 miles of shoreline. These areas provided recreation, relaxation, and meeting-places for thousands of island residents and tourists annually.

All of the parks were directly accessible by County road and had electricity, telephones, and potable water. The loss of these beach parks caused a severe shortage of shoreline park space in Puna and greater pressure on private and undeveloped public shoreline properties, resulting in the degradation of shoreline areas that became over-used, with no sanitary facilities or maintenance.

In fact, after the lava flow disaster, there were only two remaining developed shoreline parks in Puna: the 1.79-acre Isaac Hale County Park (a County park) and the 6-acre Mackenzie State Park, located along a cliff overlooking the ocean. There was a shortage of areas for swimming, picnicking, shorefishing, and many other ocean-related activities associated with the local way of life.

The County of Hawai‘i in partnership with FEMA began to purchas land and plan for new parks. The County acquired Ahalanui County Park with FEMA funds in 1994. Geometrician prepared an EA and a Special Management Area and Conservation District Use permits.

The park – a site long famed for its large warm pond – became one of the most used and appreciated recreational facilities on the island. At Isaac Hale County Park, plans were made to add about 25 acres and substantially upgrade the park, requiring again an EA as well as Special Management Area and Conservation District Use permits. As of 2007, Isaac Hale Park is undergoing a major facelift, with new picnic tables, boat and vehicular parking, shelters, restrooms and multiple shower areas, pedestrian walkways, landscaping, widening of a portion of Kaimu-Kapoho Road, lighting, drainage improvements, waterlines, signage and demolition of various features.

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