Neglect leads to junky parks, state reports says - Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL

Neglect leads to junky parks, state reports says

By Tim Sakahara - bio | email

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - State parks, harbors and trails look like "junk" that's according to a report published by the state itself.  The Department of Land and Natural Resources says it surfaces around money.  After two decades of neglect there's a backlog of more than $240 million in repairs. 

Bathrooms with missing doors, benches with missing boards and piers with so many missing pieces the walkway is in the water.  Those are a few of the problems DLNR would like to fix at some of Hawaii's 67 state parks, 45 small boat harbors, ramps and piers and 600 miles of trails.

"In some cases yes, some of our facilities are pretty junk.  We have made progress and fixed a number of them but there is still a lot of work that needs to be done," said Daniel Quinn, State Parks Administrator.

A report issued by outgoing DLNR Director Laura Thielen says two decades of neglect have caused a $240 million backlog of repairs and replacement costs and if the funding problems aren't fixed it could lead to closing parks.  They've already turned off the irrigation at various places.

"Certainly there are places we can generate revenue and there are places that will never generate anything," said Quinn.

Parks aren't exactly the highest priority.  So they don't always get money from lawmakers.  The report says state parks get half the budget it did in 1992 and is trying to make up the difference by charging fees like they do at Pali lookout.  Three parks in Hawaii already charge non-residents fees, including Akaka Falls which started charging walk-ins $1 and cars $5 earlier this month.  The state wants to charge at another five parks.  It is also raising fees for camping, mooring your boat or leasing land.

"I don't like special fees, it tricks the public into paying those extra fees because this is for that and we want that so people go ahead and pay it," said Christopher Matt, a frequent park user.  "If we nickel and dime tourists it just hurts the tourist industry."

State administrators admit there's never a good time to ask for more money and while there is a new governor and a new DLNR leader the same old problems remain.

"No matter who is in charge we're still faced with a big deficit," said Quinn.  "We're not going to pretend things are going to be rosy all of the sudden."

The report says no money was allocated by the state to fix any facilities at state parks next year and going down that path could lead to parks closing.

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