Waimea park advances

A $4 million appropriation from the state Legislature is providing a boost to Hawaii County’s efforts to have a regional park completed in Waimea by fall of 2016.

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A $4 million appropriation from the state Legislature is providing a boost to Hawaii County’s efforts to have a regional park completed in Waimea by fall of 2016.

The County Council is scheduled to put its final stamp of approval on the state money Friday when it votes on Bill 296. The measure, which provides for matching funds from the county, sailed through the council last month on a unanimous vote.

“It’s a real and important step,” county Finance Director Nancy Crawford said Monday, adding that the appropriation is a “real commitment on the Legislature’s part.”

The council meeting starts at 9 a.m. in council chambers in Hilo. The public can testify at that location, or by videoconference from the Waimea council office, Kona council office, the county facility in Kohala, Hawaiian Ocean View Estates Community Center or the Pahoa neighborhood facility.

The project is expected to go out for design bids in February or March, said Ken Van Bergen, deputy director of the county Department of Parks and Recreation. He said Parker Ranch Land Trust should be turning over the land sometime this month.

“It’s a great park, it’s very exciting,” Van Bergen said. “It’s definitely the first of its kind on that part of the island.”

The park will be a master-planned facility that will offer diversified recreational opportunities for both indoor and outdoor activities, according to the department. It will be developed in two phases with the first phase comprising approximately 24 acres as a district park. A second phase would add some 26 acres to the park, thus expanding it to a regional park.

Among the plans to be included in the project’s first phase are: a covered play court, multi-use community building, community gathering/family recreation area, a comfort station, a pavilion, two multi-use regulation-size football/rugby/soccer fields, one youth baseball/softball field, and a multi-use walkway and trail, according to the assessment. The walkway and trail is limited to walking and jogging, only.

The second phase is slated to include an additional football/rugby/soccer field, an additional youth baseball/softball field, two regulation baseball/softball fields, extension of the walkway and trail, two additional comfort stations, and, if the budget permits, converting the covered play courts that were constructed in the first phase into a gymnasium.

The Legislature previously approved $2.5 million for initial design work for the project.

An environmental assessment for the project released late last year estimates the first phase will cost $30.3 million and the second phase $6.6 million. But Van Bergen thinks it will come in substantially less, once the design is finalized and bids come in.

Land for the park’s first phase was obtained as a condition of Parker Ranch Land Trust’s approval for the Waimea Town Center. Parker Ranch has also agreed to reserve the additional lands for expansion.

The site is bordered by Ala Ohia Road on the northwest, Parker Ranch headquarters to the west and undeveloped, vacant lands to the north, south and east. A new driveway, connected to Ala Ohia Road, between the intersections with Mamalahoa Highway and Kaomoloa Road, will provide access to the park.

The site for the park was selected in 2009 from nine sites in the Waimea area and a master plan completed thereafter.

Kohala Councilwoman Margaret Wille said the community has been clamoring for a park since at least 1989. She said she went to Honolulu to testify in support of the state funding.

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In fact, she said, she was instrumental in increasing the amount.

“We were going to ask for $2 million,” she said. “I said, ‘why not $4 million?’”

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