Saturday, March 02, 2024 |
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A conceptual drawing shows a grassy lawn used for community activities at the Maka‘eo Walking Path at Old Kona Airport Park. (Laura Ruminski/West Hawaii Today)
Friends for Fitness member Andrew Darcy stands by a Halloween themed table at Saturday’s clean up of Maka‘eo Walking Path at Old Kona Airport Park. (Laura Ruminski/West Hawaii Today)
Friends for Fitness volunteers take a break from weeding for a group photo Saturday at Maka‘eo Walking Path at Old Kona Airport Park. (Laura Ruminski/West Hawaii Today)
Halloween decorations line the Maka‘eo Walking Path at Old Kona Airport Park on Saturday. (Laura Ruminski/West Hawaii Today)
Friends for Fitness president Kazumi Shigezawa works Saturday at Maka‘eo Walking Path at Old Kona Airport Park. (Laura Ruminski/West Hawaii Today)
Andrew Darcy, right, passes out goodies to keiki walking along the Maka‘eo Walking Path Saturday at Old Kona Airport Park. (Laura Ruminski/West Hawaii Today)
A facelift is happening at Maka‘eo Walking Path at Old Kona Airport Park.
On Saturday, a small group of dedicated volunteers from Friends for Fitness pulled weeds and cleared areas of the popular walking path amid halloween decorations and fun activities set up for keiki.
Andrew Darcy joined Friends for Fitness in January and is by far the youngest board member of the volunteer driven 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization. They currently have 73 volunteers registered tending to 43 “adopted” gardens.
“We are trying to pull together and get the community down here to reduce sedentary lifestyles and bring back activities,” he said.
The gardens along the walking path were in desperate need of TLC after the COVID shutdown resulted in weeds running rampant. Friends for Fitness not only plans on removing the weeds, but adding features the whole community can use.
Darcy envisions creating a fitness trail with 10 equipment stations offering more of a range of exercises.
Even though the project is still in the conceptual stage, he is encouraging the community to take a survey on their website for feedback.
Darcy is also working on establishing a “Creative Arts Garden” that would include art with gardening geared toward cognitive interaction for dementia and Alzheimer’s patients. He is hoping local artists would donate statues or sculptures for that endeavor.
One of the nonprofit’s more ambitious projects is creating a grass lawn with a raised grass stage for community gatherings, hula performances, concerts and more. Located directly mauka of the main entrance to the path, the area was completely overgrown with weeds. Friends for Fitness president Kazumi Shigezawa, a retired landscape architect, said they needed to kill all the weeds before establishing a grass lawn.
“We will have a grass elevated area elevated about one to one and a half foot,” he said. “But it will be catch or catch can when it will be done.”
He said they need community volunteers and donations of time and equipment to complete the project. Even though Old Airport Park is a county facility, the walking path’s maintenance is completely volunteer driven.
“It would be great if we could partner with the county,” he said. “Sometimes it is more than we can handle.”
“We’re all getting older,” Shigezawa said of the volunteers. “We need to bring in more young people like Andrew to carry the torch.”
Once the lawn is established, Shigezawa said they will need to raise funds to purchase a riding lawnmower to maintain the area.
Friends for Fitness started in 1992, partially funded by the state’s tobacco settlement, to be a vehicle to put the money to use to provide fitness and wellness in the Kona community. This year, a new board was installed, embarking on a renewal of the original mission.
“We want to get people out here in the sunshine and fresh air,” he said. “If they want to get a garden, we can assign them one.”
Shigezawa said COVID threw a monkey wrench into their plans.
“We wanted to have a health and wellness fair here on May Day,” he said. “We were going to have various health issue groups offering information booths and medical screening.”
He is still hopeful the event can take place next May.
As Shigezawa worked weeding, walkers of all ages were circling the path.
“Hopefully, by walking, they will see fit to volunteer,” he said. “We are hoping to make this a community resource focusing on health.”
Shigezawa said a $15,000 donation by Burke and Karen Matsuyama has sustained them the past two years.
“Burke and Karen asked me to do the landscaping redesign by Pine Trees. Lots of the succulent plants came from here,” he explained. “They were very generous in donating to Friends for Fitness. It was a win-win situation.”
He encouraged any other business or landscape companies to chip in when they can.
“We want this to become a well-used community resource,” said Shigezawa.
For more information, to donate or sign up as a volunteer, visit friendsforfitness.org
The nonprofit is also seeking a volunteer grant writer, knowing there are additional funding sources available.
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