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  From The Garden Island, February 05, 2003

Turn Coco Palms Resort into state park: Hooser

By TGI STAFF

Turning the long-shuttered Coco Palms Resort into a state park is being proposed by state Sen. Gary Hooser, (District 7-Kaua'i, Ni'ihau).

Hooser said Monday that his request is the "beginning of a community conversation," on turning the historic resort property at Wailua into a state cultural and educational resource park.

The request appears in Senate Bill 1561 of the current legislative session.

The hotel grounds were decimated by Hurricane 'Iniki on September 11, 1992.

Hooser said in a prepared statement, "The property is a continuous, visual reminder of 'Iniki, and its negative economic effects."

He said community and business leaders are unanimous in their belief that the valuable and beautiful Coco Palms property has sat vacant far too long.

Kaua'i's state senator said he's heard dissatisfaction about the continued lack of action on the part of the landowner in restoring and repairing the property in statements made publicly and in personal conversations.

A related bill, Senate Bill 1560, would grant the County of Kaua'i the authority to enact a $200 per day penalty to certain properties under certain conditions.

Testimony on SB1561 will be heard at 9 a.m. Thursday, in Room 229 of the State Capitol in Honolulu. The public may submit testimony in support of the bill to the Water, Land & Agriculture Committee Clerk, Room 201, prior to 9 a.m. Wednesday.

The property is located adjacent to state lands, and nearby ancient heiau sites. Debora Kapule, the last queen of Kaua'i, lived on a portion of the grounds in the mid-1800s.

The Coco Palms Resorts was developed in the mid-1950s by hotelier Lyle Guslander. It became one of the most popular resorts in Hawai'i through the inventiveness of his wife, Grace Guslander, and was known as a resort where visitors made repeat stays year after year.

Currently the grounds are fenced off and the only commercial activity is the use of the chapel and lagoons as a wedding site by long-time Coco Palms singer and guitarist Larry Rivera.

The South Seas setting of the resort's main buildings served as a backdrop for singer Elvis Presley's most popular film, "Blue Hawaii."

Hooser said of the historic place of the property, "I believe we can once again make this place a strong symbol for Kaua'i's people."

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