Kauaʻi County continues to move closer to a parking fee structure for non-residents at some beach parks.
On Wednesday, Jan. 12, the county council passed companion legislation of a resolution and first reading of a bill that would designate Black Pot, Lydgate and Poʻipū Beach Parks as parking zones subject to parking fees for visitors.
Currently, there are no parking fee structures in place at county parks.
In 2020, the council passed an ordinance that allowed the Department of Parks and Recreation to conduct a study to determine the degree of harm to the county’s parks and to collect parking fees, which would be used to protect the parks from future harm. Kauaʻi residents would be exempt from the parking fees.
In discussing the resolution presented on Wednesday, County Managing Director Michael Dahilig told council members the study allowed them to look at how a fee structure helps with traffic control. The parks selected are considered high-use parks.
“We have a desire to help overuse and degradation of the parks,” Dahilig said.
County officials said this type of managed parking is already deployed in state parks to build accountability with the visitor industry and equity to residents.
All council members were generally on board with the resolution with the exception of Councilwoman Felicia Cowden.
“I think passing this is a mistake today,” Cowden said. “In the time of COVID, people arenʻt involved, and those weʻre governing deserve to be at the table in the conversation.”
If the county has parking fees in Hanalei or Poʻipū, Cowden asked how does it help manage the overuse of cars in that area.
“How does it keep people from parking in front of peopleʻs houses? she questioned, adding her concern for visitors who might take up a parking stall at surrounding businesses.
Council Chair Arryl Kaneshiro disagreed with Cowdenʻs assessment, noting the resolution identifies the parks where a fee structure would be beneficial. Itʻs the bill that goes into detail on the implementation of that structure.
“Passing this resolution will not affect anyone,” Kaneshiro said.
Parks and Rec officials told the council they didnʻt know what the net effect on the neighborhoods would be at this point for visitors trying to save a buck to avoid parking fees. The department does have plans to monitor those neighborhoods near the identified beach parks to see if it becomes a problem.
While there could be on-street demand, park officials say most people are willing to pay a fee.
Cowden made a motion to defer voting on the resolution to two weeks. She didnʻt receive a second.
The resolution passed with Cowden descending.
The first reading of the bill that coincides with the resolution identifies a fee structure. Dahilig said the proposed fee is $10 per vehicle, adding the cost is on par with parking fees across the island.
“We do concede there are questions on how we intend to implement to program,” Dahilig said. “We have been in discussion with state parks and how they run the parking fee program.”
Kaneshiro said heʻs interested in how the fee structure will be implemented, how the county will get people to park where they want them to park and what it might cost to the county to enforce.
Councilman Luke Evslin questioned whether or not the county has the option to do an hourly charge rather than a flat rate, noting an hourly charge might encourage people to leave rather than stay at the park all day.
“In my opinion, I think the fee should discourage some people at the parks,” Evslin said. “The fee should reduce some usage. It should be high enough to discourage use or encourage turnover.”
Cowden encouraged a holistic approach in creating the fee structure.
“I think we need to work to curtail how it might spill out into neighborhoods,” she said.
The bill passed first reading unanimously with Councilman Bernard P. Carvahlo, Jr. excused.