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Kuawa Street park opening slated for next month

Nearly three years after it was expected to be complete, the long-delayed Kuawa Street park in Hilo is on track to open next month.

Mayor Harry Kim, who requested regular updates on the project because of its history of delays, said Thursday that contractors wanted to “refertilize” the grass “to ensure the grass has taken good hold,” and if everything goes well, “sometime in early August (we) hope to have it open to the public.”

County Department of Parks and Recreation Director Roxcie Waltjen confirmed on Friday that a last application of fertilizer was applied Thursday to both the football/soccer field and youth baseball field.

“Now, we wait one week for that to kind of take in and everything before we put anybody on the field,” she said.

According to Waltjen, the department will recommend that a “light practice” be held on both fields July 29 to get feedback from teams and coaches to determine if there’s anything that needs to be fixed or modified.

Following that, the baseball infield will be cleaned up, and the soccer field will be checked for any stones or rocks, she said.

A date for the park’s opening will be set after the practices are conducted, Waltjen said.

“I’m really excited about this,” she said. “This has been a long time coming.”

Work on the park, located on Kuawa Street between Kamehameha Avenue and the Ho‘olulu Complex, was initially expected to be completed in October 2016 but was delayed to 2017 because of soil contamination and heavy rain.

In 2017, however, it was discovered that drainage problems prevented grass from growing in the park as well as expected, among other issues.

Nearly a year ago, a new “crown,” or high point which allows water to drain off the field toward low-lying areas or dry wells, was formed, new soil was put in, and the fields were seeded.

Funding for the ball fields was approved during a flurry of parks and public works projects at the end of former Mayor Billy Kenoi’s second term.

In 2015, the County Council passed a $99.75 million bond, of which $50 million went for 18 parks projects.

In March, Waltjen said that the county might have to consider alternatives for the $3.5 million Kuawa Street park, which could have involved changing the use.

But at this point, any alternative uses are “out the window,” she said

Kim, who inherited the park project when he took office in 2016, said he had initially suggested looking at alternative uses “when I looked at it and walked the fields. It really looked like a huge job to make it right.”

The park was built by Isemoto Contracting and designed by SSFM International, and the corrective work was done at no additional cost to the county.

Kim said he was grateful to Isemoto for their work in correcting the past problems.

“… (When) I look at that field, I say, ‘My, what a beautiful field it is,’” he said, adding that alternative uses are “no longer in my mind.”

Waltjen thanked the public for their patience and cooperation.

“I understand a lot of times things are not really fully explained in detailed terms, but please know that Parks and Recreation, we try to deliver the services we do in the best way and most timely manner we can,” she said.

Email Stephanie Salmons at ssalmons@hawaiitribune-herald.com.
Source: Hawaii Tribune Herald

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