POSTED: 1:30 a.m. HST, Nov 10, 2011
Question: Whatever happened to the development of Waialee Beach Park on the North Shore? The city acquired the beachfront land nearly two decades ago.
Answer: Though the site remains largely undeveloped, the city plans to open the road to Waialee Beach and Velzyland, a popular North Shore surf spot, in a few weeks, a city official said.
"We got the green light from the mayor," Parks Director Gary Cabato said.
The city decided to open the park after finding a way to provide lifeguard coverage there. The city Ocean Safety Division recently received funding for a mobile rescue watercraft lifeguard unit, which will provide lifeguard coverage without the expense of a full-time lifeguard at the beach, which is deemed a "high-hazard beach" six months of the year because of winter surf.
City Council Chairman Ernie Martin, who represents the area, said the roving rescue watercraft provision will ensure the safety of park users.
"As soon as we have all the liability issues reviewed, we look forward to opening the park as soon as possible," he said.
But the site remains without many park amenities. It has no restrooms and only a few parking stalls. The city lacks money to make improvements.
Longtime North Shore Neighborhood Board member Bob Leinau said acquisition of the property from the state in 1990 was the city's way of land-banking the 25.65-acre parcel for future use as a park.
A paved access road to the beach was built in 2002 by D.G. "Andy" Anderson when he developed Kaunala Estates, renamed Sunset Beach Colony, a 19-acre gated community of luxury homes.
Cabato said he is having a crew trim overgrown vegetation, pick up trash and remove people who have been camping there illegally.
Ocean Safety Division Operations Chief Jim Howe said Velzyland is a high-hazard beach, "up there with Pipeline" during the winter months.
"We have had a number of fatalities over the years, and the concern coming from the city was if we begin to provide access to the broader community, it's going to be an unhealthy situation," Howe said.
Howe said that during the past four or five years, the city has looked at how to best manage the area. The new mobile lifeguard unit will cover not just Velzyland, but half the North Shore, he said.
The unit includes two specially trained lifeguards and a sport utility vehicle outfitted with a surfboard and a rescue watercraft on a trailer.
There are 189 beaches on Oahu, but only 33 have lifeguard towers. The Ocean Safety Division has 14 mobile lifeguard service units, but only four have rescue watercraft, Howe said.
This model, developed by Howe a decade ago, is being replicated around the world, he said.
A class graduated Friday with five weeks of training in the operation of the rescue watercraft.
This update was written by Leila Fujimori. Suggest a topic for “Whatever Happened To …” by writing Honolulu Star-Advertiser, 500 Ala Moana Blvd., Suite 7-210, Honolulu 96813; call 529-4747; or email firstname.lastname@example.org.