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Merrie Monarch Festival – RE: Halau Overnight Stay at Parks & Recreation Facilities

2017 Hula Kahiko from the Merrie Monarch Website

Hawaii County Mayor Harry Kim sent the following letter on August 9th, 2017 to the President of the Merrie Monarch Festival, Aunty Luana Kawelu:

Dear Ms. Kawelu:
RE: Halau Overnight Stay at Parks & Recreation

As you know, historically, the Department of Parks and Recreation (DPR) has allowed overnight stays at Kawananakoa Gym, Papa`ikou Gym, Waiakea Recreation Center, and Waiakea Uka Gym by halau participating in the annual Merrie Monarch Festival (MMF). According to the MMF website, the 2017 festival included a total of 23 halau, 21 of which were not Hilo-based. The breakdown of people overnighting in the various County Department of Parks & Recreation (DPR) facilities are as follows:

  • Kawananakoa Gym – 24 people housed for one night and 25 people housed for 8 nights
  • Papa`ikou Gym – 35 people housed for 4 nights
  • Waiakea Recreation Center – 25 people housed for one night
  • Waiakea Uka Gym – 51 people housed for 4 nights

This year, the Hawaii County Fire Department (HFD) alerted DPR of specific Fire and Building Codes that are being violated by allowing this practice. To immediately address these violations and allow overnight stays at this year’s MMF, DPR required, per Fire Code and exemption, an approved fire watch at each facility. Following the conclusion of this year’s MMF, at my instruction, DPR conducted an extensive study of DPR Administrative Rules, and Hawaii County Building and Fire Codes, to ascertain whether this practice should be allowed to continue.

DPR’s findings are as follows:

While there are no DPR Administrative Rules that explicitly prohibit overnight stays at DPR facilities, pertinent excerpts from Chapter 15 of the Hawaii County Code indicate/state:

  • Section 15-3 defines “Camper’— means any person who remains in a park area between the hours of 11:00 p.m. and 6:00 a.m., and “Camping” – means the act of remaining in a park area between the hours of 11:00 p.m. and 6:00 a.m.
  • Section 15-8 designates the authority of the Director to establish visiting hours and states in part: “all persons shall observe and abide by the officially -posted signs and designated closed areas and visiting hours.”
  • Article 4, beginning with Section 15-39 and continuing through Section 15-48, designates Camping and all rules associated, including the names of the parks where camping is allowed.

Based on these DPR Administrative Rules, overnight stay at the facilities listed above are prohibited.

With respect to the Hawaii County Building Code, fire sprinklers and/or alarm systems are required for any facility used for sleeping, with the R-1 designation as described below.

County gyms can possibly be evaluated as transient accommodations, but must meet the standards of this section of the code:

302.1 General. Structures or portions of structures shall be classified with respect to occupancy in one or more of the groups listed below. A room or space that is intended to be occupied at different times for different purposes shall comply with all of the requirements that are applicable to each of the purposes for which the room or space will be occupied. Structures with multiple occupancies or uses shall comply with Section 508. Where a structure is proposed for a purpose that is not specifically provided for in this code, such structure shall be classified in the group that the occupancy most nearly resembles, according to the fire safety and relative hazard involved.

The current occupancy type of a gymnasium is Assembly Occupancy. Use of
gymnasiums for sleeping would change the occupancy type to R -I Occupancy.

  • Fire Sprinkler Requirement. R-1 Occupancy in Section 903.2.7 of the Building Code requires a fire sprinkler system; therefore, a gym or other facility used for sleeping shall have a fire sprinkler system.
  • Fire Alarm Requirement. R-1 occupancies in Section 907.2.8 of the Building Code require a Fire Alarm system and smoke alarm system.

The restriction/constraint regarding the use of a gym as a sleeping space is the need for fire sprinklers. The codes also require audio/visual fire alarms. These are not commonly present in older buildings, and therefore, upgrades would be required to accommodate sleeping.

HFD has allowed sleeping in these facilities under the exemption found in the NFPA 1, Uniform Fire Code, Hawaii 2006 Edition, regulation 20.2.3.6 Use of School Facilities for Sleeping, which reads:

“Educational occupancies that allow sleeping on a temporary basis shall prohibit smoking or open flames, and shall be provided with one of the following:

  1. Smoke alarms shall be provided in the designated sleeping area. When the facility is provided with a fire alarm system, the smoke alarms shall be connected to the fire alarm system, or
  2. An approved fire watch shall be provided.”

None of the DPR facilities above are school facilities, with the exception of perhaps Kawananakoa Gym, which is also governed by rules included in the lease agreement with the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands (DHHL).

DHHL lease agreement #44, amendment #2, with DPR, item #8, states in part: “it is agreed that for the health and safety of those using the facilities, and to address potential damages to the gymnasium, NO FOOD OR DRINK AND OVERNIGHT STAY at the facilities are allowed.” (Emphasis as it appears in document.)

The DHHL lease agreement would disqualify Kawananakoa Gym in any event,
regardless of any safety -protection systems that may be in place.

Based on this research, DPR has recommended against the continued practice of allowing overnight stays at DPR recreational facilities. However, DPR/Hawai’i County recognizes and fully supports the cultural and historical significance of the MMF, and is aware of the shortage of accommodations available for this important event. As such, every effort will be made to work with your organization to identify potential alternate sites.

DPR would like to offer the usage of the Mauna Kea Recreation Area cabins to visiting halau in 2018. There are two bunkhouses, capable of holding 24 people each, plus seven cabins, capable of holding six people each, for a total of 90 people. Each bunkhouse and cabin has its own bathroom with shower. There are potable water, a dining hall, and ample parking.

DPR is ready to assist the Merrie Monarch Festival in addressing any potential
concerns you may have with these suggested alternate accommodations, and looks forward to working with you.

2 Responses

  1. Can’t the state bring these facilities to code? There’s at least 7 months to rectify this problem. The gymnasiums are used to alleviate some of the cost for these halaus.
    Mayor Kim, please rescind this ruling and provide these buildings with the proper equipment. Your assistance is greatly appreciated. Thank you

  2. Are any of these facilities used as storm shelters? If so, then all this is nonsense. If they can house people in an emergency they can house people for events.

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