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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Sunday, February 3, 2002

Skateboarders seek park

Rebecca Noda sells several creatively designed skateboards at Lazy Bonez on Kapahulu Avenue. Youths, however, have no legally sanctioned place in the area to use them. She said a pay-to-skate park under H-1 Freeway was no longer an option.

Cory Lum • The Honolulu Advertiser

By James Gonser
Advertiser Urban Honolulu Writer

As Kaimuki residents cheer for skate parks planned in several O'ahu communities, they still lament the loss of their own little park under the H-1 Freeway at Kapahulu Avenue that closed "temporarily" two years ago.

With six new skateboard parks expected to open this year, they wonder when it will be their turn, especially after being told the Kapahulu Avenue park would reopen last month.

The short answer is, maybe this summer, when the city hopes to build a temporary facility. The Kaimuki area is not scheduled to get a permanent skate park. As for the Kapahulu facility with its pay-to-skate concept, it has likely become unfeasible with the development of new, free city skate parks, though the nearest one is two miles away.

Linda Wong, food service manager at Kuhio School, said that through her window behind the school she sees children harassed every day for riding their skateboards on private property.

"I feel sorry for them," Wong said. "It's like they live in a concrete jungle and don't have any place to go."

The Kapahulu skate park under the freeway opened in July 1997 with the city's permission but closed suddenly two years later after the city was forced to take back the land. The city now uses the property for its Motor Vehicle Control Section and has trailers for inspectors and impounded vehicles at the site.

The city leases the land from the state, which in turn leases it from the federal government.

In 1996, with no money in the city budget to build a skate park, a partnership of skaters, community groups and the Central YMCA worked together to open the park. At the time it was seen as a model.

Kevin Buchli of the Hawai'i Skatepark Association organized the project, and the Central YMCA donated $10,000 for insurance, staffing and construction.

The skateboard park was open only on weekends and holidays and charged a $30 annual membership fee plus $2 a day to cover expenses and repairs. More than 200 skaters quickly joined.

In September 1999, the park was closed and the wood ramps and rails demolished after the state said it needed to use the property for a base yard while conducting a seismic retrofit project on the freeway. The project was expected to take one year. The project dragged on and the state is still using the site. Buchli has since moved to the Mainland.

Skaters are left holding the bag.

City spokeswoman Carol Costa said that if the property becomes available again and the YMCA is willing to finance the project, the skate park could be reopened. Shin Doman, executive director of the Central YMCA, did not return calls seeking comment.

Costa said the city Parks Department now plans to build a temporary skate park at Kaimuki Community Park sometime this summer.

"(The freeway location) could happen again, unless this temporary skate park opens," Costa said. "The (parks department) is looking to find an alternative."

Rebecca Noda, owner of Lazy Bonez skateboard shop on Kapahulu Avenue, said with so many free parks planned, reopening a park that charges users won't fly.

"It was popular, but was only accessible on the weekend," Noda said. "They need to have a free one with more hours like other places."

The closest skate park is about two miles away in Makiki, and Noda said that is a long way for some children. Other planned parks are even farther away, at 'A'ala Park in Chinatown and at Kamiloiki Park near Hawai'i Kai.

No money requests for a skate park have been presented to the Diamond Head/Kapahulu/St. Louis Heights Neighborhood Board, but board member Michelle Matson said something needs to be done soon.

"We have problems in our neighborhood because now the kids don't have any place to go so they set up their equipment in the middle of the street," Matson said. "They are good kids, and they need to have something to do. They are developing their abilities, and it is really quite amazing what they can do with these things."

Chuck Mitsui, president of the Association of Skateboarders in Hawai'i, said with all the problems of land use, money, insurance and management, the Kapahulu site is not likely to reopen.

"There are nine skateboard parks scheduled to open over the next couple years and they are all free," he said. "It would not seem like a good idea to have something where you need to pay when there are nice, new places that are free."

Mitsui suggested residents put their energy toward the Kaimuki Community Park or another park in their area.

"The city parks are probably going to be the future of skate parks here," he said.

Reach James Gonser at jgonser@honoluluadvertiser.com or 535-2431.