This morning I read with great interest the Honolulu Advertiser‘s big story “‘Renaissance’ proposed for parks,” concerning the state Department of Land and Natural Resources‘ proposed $240 million renovation plan for parks all over the state (the Honolulu Star-Bulletin ran a shorter story on the same subject back on Jan. 30).
Both stories do a great job of detailing DLNR Chairperson Laura Thielen’s plan to charge user fees to locals and tourists alike to help pay for the massive but badly needed park improvements. But both stories also give maddeningly brief play to another, potentially far more destructive and controversial part of the plan:
“But so-called user fees won’t be nearly enough to cover the cost of overhauling the state’s sprawling inventory of 54 parks, 20 small boat harbors, 25 boat ramps or landings, 275 miles of hiking trails, 19 natural area reserves, 55 forest reserves and hundreds of miles of state beaches,” wrote Advertiser reporter Dan Nakaso in today’s story.
So far, so good. But then there’s this paragraph:
So Thielen wants to generate the bulk of the money by leasing some of the 1 million acres of land under DLNR’s control for commercial and industrial use. The revenue would then be used to pay the debt service on an estimated $200 million in general obligation, reimbursable bonds over the five years of the plan.
That’s all–no further explanation. How many acres would DLNR lease? And what exactly does “commercial and industrial use” mean? The questions boggle the mind.
The Jan. 30 Star-Bulletin story was even more vague, mentioning only that “Thielen said the debt service will be paid by revenue from commercial and industrial land leases…”
The Advertiser story links to the DLNR’s webpage on the “Recreational Renaissance” plan, so I clicked over to see if I could get more details. The webpage is a lot bigger on flashy public relations images and phrases than details, but in Appendix B–Financial Plan, I did find these points:
• $3,000,000 in annual lease rents from those 124,000 acres of public lands currently managed by the DLNR
• Within six years generating $6,000,000 in new revenues from currently vacant lands with high development potential, to be developed through public-private partnerships.
Now your guess is as good as mine as to what 124,000 acres we’re talking about, or what exactly DLNR means by “high development potential” and “public-private partnerships,” but I’d sure like to find out.