Kualoa Ranch sets visitor growth goals
Kualoa Ranch last year shared broad strokes of a plan to expand tourism on its Windward Oahu property for movie site tours, and now has a goal of attracting up to 2,000 visitors a day.
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Kualoa Ranch last year shared broad strokes of a plan to expand tourism on its Windward Oahu property popular for movie site tours, and now has a goal of attracting up to 2,000 visitors a day.
That would be as much as double the number of current visitors to the cattle ranch more known for its ATV rides, zip lines and valley where “Jurassic Park” was filmed.
The visitor goal is in a final environmental assessment published last week by the state Office of Environmental Quality Control.
Kualoa Ranch needs permission from the city Planning Commission for some of its desired changes, which also include new buildings and more parking, under a 1985 special-use permit that limited the number of visitors and operating hours for the roughly 4,000-acre family-owned ranch.
Some of the original limits under the permit, such as bringing in no more than 100 visitors a day from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday through Friday, will be the subject of a requested modification to the permit in a process involving a public hearing before the commission. A petition to modify the permit is expected to be filed next month.
Ranch consultant G70, a local planning firm, said in the environmental report that 1,000 to 1,500 tourists currently visit the property daily and that operating hours have been from
7:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. for the last 15 or 20 years.
“Activities at the ranch have become more popular over time,” said Jeff Overton, a G70 planner. “The target is to accommodate some modest future growth.”
Overton said the ranch has managed the expansion of activities and visitors well over the past few decades.
When Kualoa Ranch obtained its special permit, limits were put in place partly to address traffic concerns and to avoid disturbing area residents.
G70 contends that the proposed expansion won’t make traffic significantly worse. But some residents aren’t convinced.
“The traffic problems created by some events there have been very frustrating to Windward residents and are potentially worse with expansion,” Andrea Anixt, a 40-year Kaaawa resident, said in a July letter to G70 and the city Department of Planning and Permitting.
J. William Busch of Kahaluu regards the ranch as a respected part of the community that provides valuable services, recreation and employment. But he said in a letter that it’s not right to approve an expansion with no limits on visitor numbers or operating hours.
“Although the ranch states that it will take community needs into account, having no limits leaves much too much to the ranch’s discretion,” Busch said. “I regret having to submit these comments, due to the fact, as mentioned before, that the ranch is a respected part of the Windward community, but the net negative impacts of the expansion of hours and visitors would be detrimental to the community at this time, even considering the potential increase in employment such changes might bring about.”
The ranch employs about 300 people and estimates that its expansion work will cost $4.4 million. It wants to add new buildings and roughly 100 more parking stalls in addition to extending hours and lifting the caps on visitors and recreational vehicles it can have.
G70 said expanding tours will help sustain agricultural operations and preserve the scenic splendor of open space.
Agriculture at Kualoa Ranch includes a cattle herd of about 500 that grazes on 1,400 acres, a piggery, and aquaculture operations producing oysters, shrimp, prawns, catfish and tilapia. The ranch also grows crops that include taro, breadfruit, papaya, jackfruit, banana, pineapple, bamboo, sugar cane, coffee, macadamia nuts and ornamental plants.
Tours, which include rides on horseback, ATVs and bikes, are permitted accessories to agriculture because they pass through farm sites. The main attraction for many guests, however, is seeing movie sites.
“Guests will visit the ‘Jurassic Park’ site, find Godzilla’s footprints, see the famous battlefield from the movie ‘Windtalkers,’ and listen as the guide tells about ‘Pearl Harbor,’ ‘50 First Dates,’ ‘George of the Jungle,’ ‘You, Me and Dupree’ and ‘Lost,’” the ranch said in the report.
An earlier draft of the report said tours generate more than 90 percent of revenue for Kualoa Ranch. “It is the dominant business of the ranch today,” it said.
The plan calls for 13 new buildings for activity-related structures, some to serve as staging areas for the tours. A farmers market, a building to host up to 150 people for weekly culinary experiences, new stables and a facility to process fruits and vegetables grown on the ranch into higher-value food products are also planned.