The city spent $13 million for construction of an educational facility that opened in 2002 on the cliff above Hanauma Bay, one of Hawaii’s top tourism draws. Now some of the bay’s facilities are in obvious disrepair — a shameful sight, especially since the city charges admission for the attraction’s upkeep.
Bob Kern, former vice president of Friends of Hanauma Bay, and his wife, Micki Stash, met with city officials early this year to urge repairs.
A beach booth where volunteers from the Friends of Hanauma Bay teach visitors to appreciate marine life is falling apart, and components of a mandatory training video for first-time visitors need fixing. Touch-screen computers in the education center featuring photos of coral and fish have been out of commission for 16 months and the video projector has been malfunctioning for four months — and for an eight-month period prior to that — making the bay’s blue waters appear murky green. Forty feet of a metal guardrail leading to the highest lookout is covered with severe rust and corrosion, resulting in large, sharp-edge holes in some sections.
"There’s a lot of things that can be done that aren’t getting done," Stash told the Star-Advertiser’s Rosemarie Bernardo, even though the Hanauma Bay fund, fed by concession proceeds and tourists’ entry fees, totals several million dollars. "The money is just sitting there."
City Parks and Recreation Director Les Chang says replacement of the guardrail would cost $250,000 and has yet to be approved.
"Of course, each item has a different history, but the good news is that they are being addressed," he said. "The touch-screen display and the video projector fixes are imminent."
Chang said his department is "at different stages on working these items."
What’s not clearly explained is how and why conditions were allowed to deteriorate in the first place. Are the city’s procurement procedures really so time-consuming and inflexible that they can’t keep up with basic repairs? The city needs to find a better way to keep up.
In a recent letter to the editor, Kern and Stash blame "inefficient financial procedures and questionable decision-making." They wrote that money had been diverted from the touch-screen replacement, and requests for a backup projector and railing repairs had been denied.
Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve has actually improved since 1990, when the city launched a concerted effort to protect it through education and enforce strict rules. Failure to maintain the facilities puts that mission at risk, and gives a black eye to the state’s first marine life conservation district and a spectacular visitor attraction.