Hilo skate park plan pulled

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HILO — A skate park won’t be built at a bayfront parking lot after all.

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HILO — A skate park won’t be built at a bayfront parking lot after all.

More than a year ago, Hawaii County officials gave a group of skating enthusiasts the go-ahead to setup wooden ramps there as a temporary solution while they raise funds for a much larger skating complex.

But Parks and Recreation Director Charmaine Kamaka said the administration is nixing the idea because it considers the parking lot, which is prone to flooding, unsuitable for a skate park.

“It’s a poor location in general,” she said of the lot adjacent to the monkey pod trees and between Bayfront Highway and Kamehameha Avenue.

Kamaka said the county is still interested in building a permanent skating facility at Hoolulu Complex behind Kawamoto Swim Stadium as envisioned by the Hilo Skate Plaza Coalition, assuming they meet fundraising goals. In addition to a skate park, the group wants to build a covered skating rink, walking trail and playground.

But the decision is nonetheless a frustrating setback for the group, which has been fundraising for the past seven-plus years to make their dream a reality.

Mealoha Kraus, group secretary, said they were about to order materials needed to build the temporary skate park. Former Hilo Councilman Dennis Onishi contributed about $50,000 from his council contingency funds for that effort.

“It’s like one step forward and two steps back,” she said. Kraus said the group had to get a special management area minor permit for the parking lot.

Kamaka said the council contingency money is still available for a skate park, which she says she supports building behind Kawamoto. Still, it’s not yet clear if or when a skate park could be built behind the pool.

Even if the skating facility is done in phases, she said she wants it to be permanent rather than meant to be torn down once something better comes along.

“I would prefer to raise more funds and put a permanent structure in place,” Kamaka said.

The group says it has been asked to raise $100,000 to get the full skating facility going. Group chairman Dan Madsen said they have raised about $12,000 gross.

Hilo Councilwoman Sue Lee Loy said one option could be to tap into developer impact fees. She said her district has about $500,000 set aside for parks.

“I strongly support what they are trying to do,” she said.

To show that, Lee Loy plans to introduce a resolution urging the county to expedite construction of a skate park at Hoolulu Complex.

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A draft of the resolution notes county code prohibits skating on roads and sidewalks. Skate parks have been built in Waikoloa, Kailua-Kona, Volcano, Pahoa, Waimea and Honokaa, it states.

Kraus said it shouldn’t cost much to get something in place.