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Road to the Sea talk story sessions set for Saturday

Ocean View residents are being asked to weigh in on the future of the Road to the Sea at a series of community meetings later this week.

The County of Hawaii on Saturday will conduct a series of in-person meetings in the hopes of developing a management plan for a 3,000-acre property between Ocean View and the sea. The county bought that property in 2016 with funds from state and federal grants, and from the County’s Public Access, Open Space and Natural Resources Preservation Commission.

That property contains the Road to the Sea, a rough six-mile trail from Highway 11 across the lava to black and green sand beaches.

Gabrielle Sham, associate planner for Townscape Inc. — a Honolulu-based environmental consultant contracted by the county — said the company will develop a resources management plan for the property based on public feedback.

“We want to hear from the community their thoughts on the property,” Sham said. “Important natural and cultural resources the management plan should address … what they’re worried about with respect to the land and resources, and to identify opportunities for stewardship and management. We want to create a shared vision for the property.”

Because of COVID-19 mitigation rules, the public meeting will be held in a series of four talk story sessions, instead of one meeting. Community members also will be able to submit feedback via an online survey.

County Councilwoman Maile David, who represents Ocean View and the rest of Ka‘u, said the property has been the subject of concerns among the community.

“Access is a big issue for the community,” David said. “That area has a lot of historic sites, and we want to try to preserve them … but if we improve access, then we also increase the number of people going there, so we have to figure out how to balance that.”

David said the property also contains fragile tide pools and other unique shoreline features that need to be protected.

“I’m excited about this, because there’s a lot of concern about who’s managing the area,” David said.

A representative of the Ocean View Community Association, who asked to remain anonymous, said some Ocean View residents want the property to remain untouched, but others want limited development to improve the road, which cannot be safely traveled without a four-wheel-drive vehicle.

“Nobody wants a resort. Nobody wants to change the character of the area,” the association representative said. “But you have to drive 40 minutes to get to a beach from Ocean View, and the law requires that everyone have beach access, and that includes disabled people, too.”

On the other hand, the representative added, improving the road will lead to an increase in visitors, which some argue will spoil the solitude of the area. The seas off the end of the road are also subject to treacherous currents, which could lead to tragedy if more visitors arrive.

Townscape will use the input from Saturday’s meeting and the survey to develop a draft plan, which Sham said may be completed by mid-to-late summer. That plan will then be circulated among the community for further input.

Sham added that Townscape will consult with community members throughout the drafting process as well.

Because of COVID restrictions, participants are required to sign up to reserve a space at the one-hour talk story sessions, which will be held at the Ocean View Community Association Community Center on Saturday at 9 a.m., 10:15 a.m., 12 p.m. and 1:15 p.m. Participants can register by emailing Sham at gabrielle@townscapeinc.com or calling (808) 550-3894.

Members of the public are also encouraged to fill out the online survey at tinyurl.com/yef98hdv.

Email Michael Brestovansky at mbrestovansky@hawaiitribune-herald.com.
Source: Hawaii Tribune Herald

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