WAIMEA — For more than three years, Debbie Place has been wanting to build a dog park in Waikoloa Village. Despite obstacles encountered along the way, it looks like her dream may become a reality in 2019.
Place is one of more than 50 North Hawaii residents who signed a pledge to support Friends of Waikoloa Village Dog Park (FOWVDP), a 501(c)(3) nonprofit officially formed in January.
The canine project took a significant step forward Nov. 30 when Hawaii County’s Department of Parks and Recreation Director Roxcie Watjen issued a letter of commitment stating their support for the future dog park to be built in Kamakoa Nui Park.
“Having a dog park in Waikoloa will be conducive to positive social factors, and can contribute to a physically active lifestyle for youth and adults,” Watjen stated in the letter.
On Saturday, more than a dozen FOWVDP volunteers, friends and their pooches participated in the Waikoloa Village Christmas Parade for the third year in a row. Fundraising for the dog park officially kicked off at a booth at Keiki Fest outside Waikoloa Elementary School following the parade.
Volunteers aim to raise $40,000 or more to cover costs to construct and outfit the dog park. Former District 9 Councilwoman Margaret Wille was instrumental in the effort in 2016 when she created a resolution to allocate $6,500 to the project that was then passed by County Council.
A diagram created by P&R illustrates the 26,000-square-foot dog park just beyond the west end of Kamakoa Nui Park’s soccer field. Enclosed by a fence, it will include separate areas for small and large dogs.
If all goes as planned, it will be the first dog park within a County park on Hawaii Island.
Residents throughout North Hawaii have been wanting a dog park for more than 10 years but past efforts were unsuccessful. More recently, individuals called a community meeting in October 2017 to discuss forming a new group to bring a Waikoloa Village dog park to fruition. Discussions with P&R began earlier that year.
An initial meeting between FOWVDP board members, Watjen, Komata and P&R’s Deputy Director Maurice Messina was held at P&R’s Hilo office last March to find a location for the dog park. Komata next met FOWVDP members at Kamakoa Nui Park July 24 for a walk through of the area he suggested.
In August, dog park volunteers began contacting companies for price quotes on fencing, grading, gates, and the removal of thorny kiawe trees in the specific dog park area. Irrigation, soil, landscaping, benches, a shed and trash containers are among other items they will need.
A snag in the project arose a month or so later when P&R discovered that Kamakoa Nui Park had never been added to the list of County parks in Hawaii Code – Section 15-68.1. The oversight was attributed to the County Housing Department who built the park as the first part of the long-term Kamakoa Nui Hawaii Workforce Housing project.
District 9 Councilman Tim Richards agreed in November to file a resolution adding the park to Section 15-68.1, after which the Council will need to review it twice before it can be passed. He said this will most likely take two months from start to finish.
Once accomplished, Messina said P&R can issue a Friends of the Park Agreement, which is also required, and survey the land. All County agencies select from and enter into contracts with land surveyors on an approved list they maintain, according to Komata.
In a letter of support issued last week, Councilman Richards stated, “With Waikoloa being a robust dog community, it is important that the residents have a safe place to gather to work on socialization commands with their dogs and get the exercise they need – both dog and owner. For most, our dogs are our companions and we treat them like family members. These family members deserve the best environment in order to thrive; a dog park in the heart of Waikoloa Village.”
The timing of the dog park coincides with P&R’s commitment to begin installing new sod and irrigation on the fields at Kamakoa Nui Park, possibly starting in January.
In a phone conversation Nov. 29, Messina said “P&R can provide some in-kind services” for the dog park.
“It’s so wonderful to see our efforts finally paying off,” FOWVDP board member Karen Goore said, who has worked on other fundraising efforts over the past two decades. “While we still need to raise funds to build the dog park, we already have $7,580 of the $40,000 we need.”
A new Friends of Waikoloa Village Dog Park website was created earlier this month by one of the group’s volunteers, Aislinn Chalker, where anyone can sign up for regular updates.
Info: Go to www.waikoloavillagedogpark.org or the Friends of Waikoloa Village Dog Park Facebook page at www.facebook.com/groups/ 1361378747260015.