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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Thursday, January 26, 2006

Kahalu'u asked to remain patient; after 2 decades, park still not done

By Eloise Aguiar
Advertiser Windward O'ahu Writer

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KAHALU'U Jason Flores, 36, has been waiting for a new football field in his community for 30 years. For each of the past six years, as a coach, he expected to move his team to the newly developed regional park.

He's still waiting.

The city is now saying it will take an additional eight months, once a contract is awarded this spring, to fix a drainage problem created by poor soil conditions. Kahalu'u Regional Park was expected to open in 2003, but problems with rocks, then grass and now drainage have postponed the use of the playing fields that the community had begun planning for more than 25 years ago.

"We've been waiting for it since I was able to play in Pop Warner and Little League sports," said Flores, a father of five boys. "They've been promising us since I've been coaching for six years to move us there. It never happened."

The wait has been costly for the Kahalu'u-He'eia Pop Warner Association, which has had to pay to play at another field and cause parents to rearrange schedules to bring players to practice, said Nick Cambra, president of the association.

The association has paid as much as $1,700 a year since 1983 to play at King Intermediate School, Cambra said. Twice a year they provide about 400 pounds of fertilizer and groom that field, he said.

"We're the only Pop Warner association that pays for a field," said Cambra, adding that the fee covers the cost of a custodian and security guard. "We have to charge the kids to play. It just raises our fees."

Lately, limiting play and practice to King school also has lowered the number of teams the association can field, Cambra said. The association has four teams and wants to add one more, but can't until they move to the bigger Kahalu'u park.

"It's not just costing money," he said. "I believe it's costing us kids."

Eugene Lee, deputy director for the city Design and Construction Department, said the city has hired a sports turf specialist and is designing a drainage system for the park, which has a football and softball field.

In 2004, after much of the work was completed, rocks the size of golf balls began to surface on the playing field. The city said it removed most of the rocks but by last May, grass growth was stunted and it was determined that the grass was getting too much water. Now the city has decided that poor drainage because of clay soil is the problem, Lee said.

Most of the park's playing fields were built from soil dredged out of a stream and stored there to dry, Lee said. The material was going to be used as fill material for a landfill closure in Kailua, but the dredging project was delayed and the soil didn't dry, making it unsuitable, he said. Clay soil doesn't drain well, Lee said.

"The intent is to put money in the budget to completely redo the field," Lee said. "It includes an underdrain to take the water out of the field."

Some $1.25 million has been budgeted to fix the problem and the city hopes to begin work in the spring and finish it within eight months, he said.

John Reppun, who has championed the project for more than 25 years, said the community warned the city about the rocks and drainage problem before the start of the park construction in 2002.

But Reppun said he's glad that the city is fixing the field and hopes it includes getting rid of the rocks.

"You can moan over how long this has taken but what's very important is that it gets done," he said. "The fact that there is money in the budget to do this fix is a good thing and the fact that it's going to start work this year is good. What's the point in looking backward?"

Reach Eloise Aguiar at eaguiar@honoluluadvertiser.com.