WAIKOLOA VILLAGE — The vision for Kamakoa Nui Skate Park in Waikoloa Village was more than a series of ramps and railings in a contouring bowl of concrete — but it’s hard to see past that now.
Opened in September of 2013 as part of the Kamakoa Nui workforce housing project, the 12-acre parcel includes a baseball diamond and what was meant to be a soccer field. Residents of the village said youth soccer teams practiced there in the beginning, with recreational rugby and baseball games popping up from time to time.
But last week, neither field appeared capable of safely accommodating physical activity of any significant sort — both instead assuming a malnourished, uneven appearance. David Foster, who’s lived in Waikoloa Village for eight years and was the only soul in the park without a skateboard during the early afternoon hours May 8, said poor park conditions have been consistent almost from the start.
“When they first put it in, they made some effort to seed it and tried to get something going, but it’s never really been maintained,” Foster added. “The only people who really use the park are the skaters. In fact, we just pretty much just refer to this as the skate park because that’s really about all people use it for.”
Central to the problem of upkeep have been issues with waterlines meant to irrigate various sectors of the park, which is located in one of the hotter, dryer areas of West Hawaii. Adding to those issues and causing problems of their own are acts of vandalism, particularly people driving vehicles out onto the fields with some reports of motorists doing donuts and tearing up the soil.
Maurice Messina, deputy director of the Hawaii County Department of Parks and Recreation, said his department has budgeted a rebuild of the park’s waterline system for next fiscal year, which begins July 1. Parks and Rec employees will handle the work instead of putting the project out to bid.
“The (sprinkler heads) are breaking. People have broken them. We have had people in the past drive onto the fields — well, we’ve had reports of that before,” Messina said. “We don’t know the cost (of the work) yet, but we believe we can take care of it in house.”
Initial funding for the project came from the Hawaii County Office of Housing and Community Development as part of the Kamakoa Nui workforce housing project.
Duane Hosaka, assistant housing administrator, said the total investment was $2.5 million. It included funds for grading and finishing the baseball diamond with a backstop, installing a soccer field complete with movable goals, erecting a comfort station, adding parking stalls and setting up a grassed and working irrigation system.
After Housing finished the project, Parks and Rec assumed its management. Following reports of vehicles driving out onto the fields, the department added more fencing to keep the areas clear. But park conditions continue to struggle.
“I think it’d get a lot of use if it was an inviting place to come to, so it’s really a shame,” Foster said. “I don’t know what the philosophy is, I don’t know if it’s money, but Hooko Park is much more widely used.”