HILO — A county subsidy allowing Big Island golfers to pay just $25 greens fees at two West Hawaii golf courses began Friday, but it could be the last year for the popular program.
The county started providing subsidies in 2006 in an attempt to make recreational opportunities more equitable for West Hawaii residents, who pay more than 76 percent of property taxes, but have just a fraction of the parks and other recreational amenities enjoyed by East Hawaii residents.
Mayor Billy Kenoi said in early 2009 that although the economic slowdown is tightening the county’s spending for new projects, West Hawaii should see a more equal share of the Parks and Recreation budget. He appointed West Hawaii resident Bob Fitzgerald to head the sprawling agency.
But Fitzgerald told West Hawaii Today last week that trying to make the two sides of the island more equitable is hindered by history itself. East Hawaii has more facilities, he said, because the county received most of them from the former plantations. Large landowners in West Hawaii, in contrast, have been less generous with contributions of park land, gymnasiums and other amenities, he said.
The West Hawaii golf subsidy is meant to offset subsidies at the only county-owned golf course, Hilo Municipal Golf Course.