Kawainui Marsh restoration a difference of opinion

KAILUA, OAHU (HawaiiNewsNow) - With 800 acres total and 700 of them marsh land, Kawainui Marsh in Kailua is the largest fresh water wetland sanctuary in the state.

Restoring it has been ongoing for decades. Now the state's ready for the next step.

The Department of Land and Natural Resources believes its draft restoration plan will improve the sanctuary and make it more accessible. DLNR is proposing building a visitor center, pullouts for buses, and facilities for Native Hawaiian groups.

"They want to practice their living culture, and they want some facilities that will allow them to do that," DLNR Forestry & Wildlife manager Dave Smith said.

But the Kailua Neighborhood Board dislikes the plan, claiming it's designed for tourism not wetland protection.

"There are tourist recreation centers. There's nearly 4,000 feet of boardwalk around the marsh," board chairman Chuck Prentiss said.

Smith said boardwalks would be spaced out along a walking trail in viewing areas, and bus pullouts would be for school buses not tour buses.

"It's really important that they have a place where a bus can pull over and unload children safely," he said.

The Neighborhood Board has created its own proposal for the marsh.

"It emphasizes preservation," Prentiss said. "It also would provide for some cultural facilities for the Hawaiian community."

Smith said in the state's plan preservation is paramount. The wetland is home to four species of endangered water birds.

"Nothing is going to be built in the wetland. All this would be built on the fast lands around the periphery," he said.

Prentiss believes any development would harm the marsh.

"It's pretty typical. You find an unspoiled area and spoil it," he said.

"We certainly would not want to have any negative impact on the wetland," Smith said.

The Kailua Neighborhood Board votes on its plan Thursday. Prentiss hopes the state considers its ideas. DLNR holds a public meeting November 30 to discuss Kawainui's future.

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