Re­vised plan pre­sented

New Kukuihaele Park de­sign gets warm re­cep­tion after more than a year of con­tention

Hawaii Tribune Herald - - FRONT PAGE - By IVY ASHE

“The park is not worth the po­lar­iz­ing in the com­mu­nity.” MAYOR HARRY KIM

After more than a year of neigh­bor­hood con­tention re­gard­ing con­struc­tion of a park in Kukuihaele, county plan­ners pre­sented a new and largely well-re­ceived pro­posal for the 4-acre space Tues­day night.

More than 80 peo­ple at­tended a com­mu­nity meeting in the Honokaa High School cafe­te­ria, where Hawaii County Parks and Recre­ation per­son­nel pre­sented con­cep­tual plans for a re­vised park de­sign.

Mayor Harry Kim and Hawaii County Coun­cil­woman Va­lerie Poin­dex­ter, who rep­re­sents Kukuihaele, also at­tended the meeting.

“We are try­ing our very best to work with you … com­ing to­gether to make a park that you will en­joy,” Kim said. “No­body here is go­ing to get ev­ery­thing they want, and I know that. We’ve made some mis­takes; I know that. There’s no need to draw it out.”

As orig­i­nally planned, the park would have fea­tured a Lit­tle League base­ball di­a­mond, dugouts and an 18-foot-high chain-link fence back­stop. Other fea­tures in­cluded a walk­ing path, bas­ket­ball court, park­ing stalls, pavil­ion and re­stroom build­ing.

Some in the small com­mu­nity did not support the plan, how­ever, say­ing the neigh­bor­hood could not support ad­di­tional traf­fic that would come from reg­u­lar base­ball games and that the park was in­tended to serve Hilo and Honokaa, not Kukuihaele it­self.

Last April, after a $5 mil­lion con­tract — twice the orig­i­nal planned cost — was awarded to Ise­moto Con­tract­ing Co. Ltd., the Kukuihaele Neigh­bor­hood As­so­ci­a­tion and five in­di­vid­ual plain­tiffs filed a pre­lim­i­nary in­junc­tion against the county Parks and Recre­ation Depart­ment, its di­rec­tor and then-Mayor Billy Kenoi. The in­junc­tion was de­nied by Judge Greg Naka­mura.

Con­struc­tion be­gan in Au­gust. So far, a re­tain­ing wall has been built on one side of the park. The re­stroom build­ing and pavil­ion are in progress.

Work was de­layed be­cause of heavy rain in De­cem­ber, and the con­trac­tor was asked to re­frain from any other im­prove­ments un­til after Tues­day’s meeting, said parks plan­ner James Ko­mata.

Tues­day’s com­mu­nity meeting was the first to be hosted un­der the new Kim ad­min­is­tra­tion.

It also was the first time the pub­lic had seen the re­vised plan, new Parks and Rec di­rec­tor Char­maine Ka­maka told the Tri­bune-Her­ald.

The re­vi­sions elim­i­nate the base­ball di­a­mond and dugouts in fa­vor of a flat lawn that can be used for sports and com­mu­nity gath­er­ings. The 18-foot fence also was taken off the ta­ble, but a lower chain-link fence rang­ing from 4-6 six feet tall will still be in­stalled. That fence will be painted dark green so it blends in more with its sur­round­ings.

Ko­mata said the new park also will fea­ture more land­scap­ing, shade trees and pic­nic ta­bles.

A chil­dren’s play­ground also is set to be added to the over­all plans.

“In the pre­vi­ous meeting we heard from the com­mu­nity that there was a lot of support for a play­ground,” Ko­mata said.

A fi­nal cost for the park re­vi­sions is not yet known be­cause the plan is still in its con­cep­tual phases. How­ever, Ko­mata said he ex­pected the ad­di­tion of the play­ground to slightly in­crease the to­tal cost.

Most in at­ten­dance ap­plauded after Ko­mata fin­ished his pre­sen­ta­tion, with one man call­ing the meeting a “Kukuihaele kum­baya.”

But some peo­ple ob­jected to the re­moval of the base­ball di­a­mond, say­ing their chil­dren did not have a place to prac­tice prop­erly (there was a ball field as well as a re­stroom build­ing years ago at the site, but both were razed when the county took over the prop­erty).

“You can still play base­ball in the park,” Ka­maka said. “You can play dif­fer­ent types of sports in the field: it’s a base­ball field, it’s a soc­cer field, it’s a foot­ball field.”

Ko­mata said that even in Hilo, base­ball and soft­ball prac­tice space was dif­fi­cult to find, and teams took ad­van­tage of “any open, flat area.”

“The de­ci­sion has to be made for what is best for the whole,” Kim said. “Once you make a base­ball field, it be­comes a base­ball field … you can’t play soc­cer there, you can’t play things that will dam­age the di­a­mond.”

He said he would take re­spon­si­bil­ity for elim­i­nat­ing the ball field.

“The de­ci­sion was made (after) care­ful con­sid­er­a­tion and talk­ing to ev­ery­one,” he said. “The park is not worth the po­lar­iz­ing in the com­mu­nity.”

KA­MAKA

KIM

KO­MATA

POIN­DEX­TER

IVY ASHE/ Tri­bune-Her­ald

More than 80 peo­ple at­tended a com­mu­nity meeting Tues­day at Honokaa High School to learn more about re­vised plans for Kukuihaele Park.

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