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The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted on: Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Study urges new parks from Ka'a'awa to Kahuku

 •  More parks
 •  Map (opens in a new window): What study of Ko'olauloa proposes

By Eloise Aguiar
Advertiser Windward O'ahu Writer

KO'OLAULOA — During softball and football seasons, about 400 children cram into Hau'ula Community Park to perfect their swings and practice their plays, trying to heed their coaches' instructions over the noise from hundreds of young athletes.

Bu Heffernan, a park caretaker and coach in Ko'olauloa, wants the five communities in his part of the island to have facilities that other O'ahu communities consider standard. A city study backs his desire.

Richard Ambo • The Honolulu Advertiser

The 3.7-acre field is the only city park from Ka'a'awa to Hau'ula — a distance of 10 miles — where children from those communities have access to a regulation-sized field, according to a new draft city study of recreational facilities in Ko'olauloa, from Ka'a'awa to Kahuku.

The five-community study, which covers a 16-mile stretch, shows that there are no playing fields in Ka'a'awa or Punalu'u, no city playing fields in La'ie and no city gymnasium or swimming pool. The study, by a private consultant hired by the city, says Ko'olauloa needs not only a gymnasium and swimming pool, but also meeting rooms and new playing fields. The study does not estimate how much these facilities would cost.

Residents say the community has felt a lack of facilities for decades, and something should be done to expand facilities here and on other parts of the island.

"Soccer has so many problems in getting fields that most of the older kids have to travel into town every Saturday just to play," said Diane Tafua, organizer for the Police Athletic League volleyball program. "There's no indoor play. We have the best water polo program and no pool," referring to Kahuku High School, which has produced champion water polo teams.

"The big gaping hole is the lack of seven playing fields," said Don Bremner of Hawaii Design Associates, which is conducting the $114,000 study. He added that in meetings with community groups, residents expressed the need for facilities that are standard in other communities.

Volunteer parks caretaker and coaching assistant Bu Heffernan points to a largely undeveloped parcel of land at Hau'ula Homestead Road and Hanaimoa Street that he says would make an ideal site for a new park for neighborhood children and others in the area.

Richard Ambo • The Honolulu Advertiser

The final draft of the study is expected to recommend:

• Four new playing fields.

• A gymnasium and 50-meter swimming pool on a 2.5-acre site in Malaekahana.

• A 22-acre site in Malaekahana that Hawai'i Reserve Inc. would donate for a school and community park.

• An additional nine holes at the Kahuku municipal golf course.

The report is expected to be completed in a couple of months and recommendations will be finalized once all of the communities respond, Bremner said.

City Council chairman Donovan Dela Cruz, (Wahiawa, North Shore, 'Ahuimanu), said he supports expanding the parks and increasing staffing in order to provide programs and maintenance.

"Programs are key," Dela Cruz said. "That's going to help our senior and the keiki. A lot of people talk about drug prevention programs, but we need to make sure our kids have healthy alternatives."

Paying for new parks and staffing them is a challenge, and the administration's support will be needed, he said.

Windward O'ahu Parks

Here is the number of city ball fields from Ka'a'awa to Kahuku:

Softball: 3

Baseball: 1

Soccer/football: 3

One alternative to using taxpayer dollars for parks expansions is to apply for grant money from the state or to partner with schools, Dela Cruz said. The city also can charge user fees but has not created the rules necessary to implement the fees, he said.

The community has many beach parks, but they are meant to serve the whole island and aren't counted when tabulating playing fields, Bremner said. Teams are not supposed to hold organized practices at beach parks but in Ka'a'awa, the youngest teams go to Swanzy Beach Park to hone their skills.

Annette Santiago, who has worked at Hau'ula park for 37 years, said the communities feel the squeeze for space. La'ie has a private park that is used by the PAL basketball program, but the park is in disrepair.

"The facility needs to be fixed," Santiago said. "There is no restroom. That's a big hang up for the kids."

Residents from Ka'a'awa to Kahuku agreed that more fields could translate into more activities for children. Some pointed out that while there are organized sports for elementary school children, there are few activities for children after sixth grade because of a lack of meeting rooms or a gymnasium.

"There's nothing else to do basically," said Sharon Spencer, who works at the nonprofit Parents And Children Together, PACT, in Hau'ula. "We need to do more wholesome activities."

The lack of facilities means that fewer kids are involved in sports and other activities, said Bu Heffernan, a volunteer caretaker for Hau'ula park who also helps with coaching various sports.

The fields that are available are heavily used, including the private field in La'ie. Kahuku District Park is undersized compared to other district parks, Heffernan said. When it rains, people in other communities head for a gym. But in Ko'olauloa, the rain ends activities for the day, he said.

"If we had facilities that could accommodate rain or shine, it'll probably keep more kids out of trouble and enhance their athletic career," Heffernan said.

According to city standards, a community should have two acres of community parks for every 1,000 people, Bremner said.

Adding Kahuku District Park's 16 acres and the Hau'ula Community Park's 10 acres would seem to satisfy the standard — 26 acres for 14,037 people. But people in individual communities say they need facilities in each area, not just two big parks. Bremner said some 30 acres of park land would be required.

And Bremner noted that although the Hau'ula park has 10 acres, only 3.7 acres are usable and the rest is a wetland that is covered with grass and trees.

A 10-year projection showing population growth of 13 percent means there could be a greater shortage of park space if no new fields are added, Bremner said. If the standard were applied to individual communities, the need in 2015 would be 33.4 acres, he said.

While many community members welcomed the study and apparent interest by the city to address the shortage, some had reservations.

The Rev. Charles Hopkin said he would prefer that the city develop Swanzy Beach Park, not a site across from his home in Ka'a'awa on Huamalani Road. He said the site would require a lot of work because it's sloped and overgrown with trees.

Hopkin said he doubts his neighbors would approve of a park on Huamalani but for him, "It would be better than nothing."

Staff writer Robbie Dingeman contributed to this report. Reach Eloise Aguiar at eaguiar@honoluluadvertiser.com or 234-5266.

• • •

More parks

Here is an estimate of total community park needs in 2015 based on population of the community:

Area Projected population Park needs in 2015 Current
3 acres
0 acres
2.1 acres
0 acres
9.9 acres
10 acres
13 acres
0 acres
4.4 acres
16 acres

Source: Hawaii Design Associates