The Hilo Bayfront Beach Park is located on Hilo’s largest and most important beach, an iconic ¼ mile crescent of black sand that is fringed by vegetation.
The terrain of this park was extensively reshaped by both the 1946 and the 1960 monumental tsunamis that devastated the Hilo Bay Harbor and the existing shore front Japanese camps that resided there. It is now considered a well-known flood zone that cannot sustain any permanent structures and therefore lends itself more to waterfront recreational and cultural activities rather than to shoreline development. The current layout of the site has arisen more or less by happenstance and is not the most suitable arrangement in terms of function, equitability, or aesthetics so a proposed masterplan, created by Hawai`i County Department of Parks and Recreation and Ki Concepts, was created to address this lack of functionality and to improve the area.
Hawaii Administrative Rules state the Class A water that is found in Hilo bay is valuable for recreational purposes and aesthetic enjoyment. Canoeing and other forms of shoreline recreation, including: surfing, fishing, kayaking and swimming, are the principle ongoing activities within the site and therefore, the basis for the park redesign was to improve the space for the many recreational activities including canoe-related functions that are held there.
Multiple halau for storage of canoes were proposed designed in a Hawaiian Village style concept for structure and layout. The design also included: a judges stand, picnic pavilions, an ahu (cultural gathering place), walking/bike pathways with interpretive signage, beach/ocean access for recreation, improved park access, emergency access in the event of flood conditions, a comfort station and picnic pavilions. Other considerations were improvements to vehicular and pedestrian circulation and accommodation of the county’s management and maintenance of the park.
The design also highlighted the cultural and historical significances of the site including: to respect and memorialize her Highness Ruth Luka Keanolani Kauanahoahoa Keelikōlani, a member of the Kamehameha family, who served as Royal Governor of the Island of Hawaii, as well as paying tribute the abundance of natural resources including fishponds that originally dominated the site.