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Koko Crater Stables In News Again

Residents are worried that Koko Crater Stables’ future may be in jeopardy, because of more restrictive clauses in the city’s new five-year lease bid proposal on the 10-acre site.

Under terms of the new contract (city bidding is March 6), a live-in caretaker home and access to the botanical garden trails will no longer be allowed.

Emogene Yoshimura, who has run KCS for 25 years, is concerned about the wording. It’s expensive to maintain and care for the stables’ 30 horses, she said, and having to hire staff 24/7 won’t provide the same security that a trained caretaker would.

“The two things we need are the trails and someone to live on the property. If we have that, (then there’s) a viable business plan.”

KCS lost access to the riding trails in the garden in 2008 because of city concerns about safety and trampled plants. It’s tried unsuccessfully to regain its privileges. The contract makes this loss permanent.

“(The trail) is really important,” said Friends of Koko Crater’s Kimo Franklin. “If you don’t have that horseback-riding trail in the crater, it’s going to be limited (to the) 10-acre stable grounds.

“You can provide boarding for horses to just a few people, but (the stables are) not going to be able to expand services and provide more to the community.”

Many residents are invested in seeing the stables remain as a safe recreational activity in the area, he said. Hawaii Kai Neighborhood Board resolved in 2009 to support the stables’ regaining the riding trails.

Yoshimura said her stables works with multiple groups, including University of Hawaii, Girl Scouts, Special Olympics, Make-a-Wish and more, offering riding to as many people as it can. Some students come from as far as Ewa Beach on a weekly basis to ride, she said.

“Most people think that horseback riding is a high-class activity. We’re very different,” she said. “We want to be a friendly barn that invites the public. That’s what we’ve done for 25 years.”

Yoshimura intends to submit a bid and would like to keep KCS open, but she’s ultimately more concerned about the stables’ future, with or without her.

“If this stable goes, there’s (none) that can step in and take up the reins. It’s the last stable in the Maunalua area of Hawaii Kai, and once it’s gone, it will never be replaced.”

Franklin agreed. “We’re looking at the stables entity itself, not at any bidder or operator … and wanting to support that as a whole and as an important part of this community.”

The city is expected to announce the new operator this month.