After years of delays, Kuawa ball fields set to open

  • Lawn maintenance is done Sept. 5, 2018, at the Kuawa Street park in Hilo. (HAWAII Tribune-Herald/file photo)

HILO — Nearly three years after it was initially supposed to open, work on the Kuawa Street park is finally complete.

A blessing ceremony will be held at 10:30 a.m. Oct. 16, and the greenspace — which includes fields for baseball, football and soccer — will open on Oct. 20.

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“We are excited to finally open up this park for public use, and we appreciate everyone’s patience while we worked with our partners to make the field the best we could,” county Parks and Recreation Deputy Director Maurice Messina said.

Work on the long-delayed park, located in Hilo 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 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 its use. But in July she said any alternative uses were “out the window.”

According to Messina, the department was able to have some soccer and football teams practice on the field, and from their feedback it was determined that “we had a little bit more work to do.”

That included aerating the fields and putting down mulch and fertilizer “to ensure when the fields were turned over for public use, they were in the best condition we could get it in without delaying any further the opening.”

The park was built by Isemoto Contracting and designed by SSFM International, and the corrective work was done at no additional cost to the county.

“This has been a collaborative effort through Isemoto Contracting, SSFM International and the county to provide a much-needed playing field for county sports,” Messina said.

While the corrective measures did not cost the county additional money, Messina said Parks and Recreation staff “did spend some extra time on the field to try and get it to a better, playable surface, and Director Waltjen and I appreciate all of their efforts.”

Waltjen thanked the public for their patience and everyone’s cooperation in finally getting the fields open.

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At this time, field use is going to be by reservation only. To reserve the fields, call Hoolulu Complex at 961-8720.

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

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