Kuawa Street park completion date still uncertain

  • Kuawa Street park. (STEPHANIE SALMONS/Tribune-Herald)

HILO — The completion of the Kuawa Street park is delayed yet again despite county officials in July saying the new ball fields were on track to open in August.

Test practice sessions were conducted on the field in late July to get feedback from teams and coaches to determine if there was anything that needed to be fixed or modified.

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Parks and Recreation Deputy Director Maurice Messina said Thursday that those sessions went well and the department received positive feedback from the coaches.

According to Messina, however, the entire field was aerated last week and fill was put down in some low spots.

The department is “waiting to see how the field responds to that.”

Messina said aerating involves perforating the soil with small holes to allow air, water and nutrients to better penetrate the grass roots, which “helps the roots grow deeply and produce a stronger and more vigorous field.”

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

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

Last year, a new “crown,” or high point that 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, Parks and Recreation Director Roxcie Waltjen said the county might have to consider alternatives for the $3.5 million Kuawa Street park, which could have involved changing the use. But in July she said any alternative uses were “out the window.”

An opening date has not yet been set, but Messina said the department wants the new park opened as soon as possible and is assessing it weekly.

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“We appreciate the public’s patience as we work to give Hilo another field for sports activities,” he said. “As soon as we can open it up to the public we will, and … it’s going to be a positive addition to our sports fields in Hilo.”

Email Stephanie Salmons at ssalmons@hawaiitribune-herald.com.