By Ben Gutierrez
Koko Head is known for the grueling hike to the top. But there’s an attraction inside the crater that’s been around a lot longer, and a state lawmaker believes its days could be numbered.
State Rep. Gene Ward (R-Hawaii Kai) pointed to new rules in the city’s latest contract to operate the Koko Crater Stables, which has been operating for decades, offering trail rides and lessons and hosting equestrian events.
The city said riding horses around the botanical garden next door has been off limits since 2008 after alleged complaints of horse droppings not being picked up and plants being trampled, but now it’s putting that ban in the new contract.
Whoever gets the contract also won’t be allowed to sleep in the caretakers cottage that’s now on the property. Instead, a security guard would be allowed to watch the horses during overnight hours.
“A security guard knows nothing about animal husbandry, especially about equestrian husbandry, to do that,” he said.
Ward worries all the new rules will deter potential operators, and that the city may be trying to end the operation for good.
Lynn Heirakuji, who learned to ride at the stables, said it would be a shame if it ended.
“My interest is that this continue to be a place where people can come and enjoy horses and be out in nature,” said Heirakuji. “I think that’s the most important thing.”
The city said it is looking to sign another five-year contract, but the solicitation for vendors explicitly says the parks director has the right to turn down any and all bids.
The city will be accepting bids until next week Friday.