Up in smoke! – Early morning blaze destroys bathroom at Old Kona Airport Park

  • An early morning fire destroys the only functional bathroom at Old Kona Airport Beach Park on Tuesday. (Courtesy photo/Special to West Hawaii Today)

  • An early morning fire destroys the only functional bathroom at Old Kona Airport Beach Park on Tuesday. (Courtesy photo/Special to West Hawaii Today)

A bathroom recently refurbished with private funds at Old Kona Airport was burnt to the ground early Tuesday morning.

Hawaii County announced that a structure fire has destroyed the only working bathrooms at the Old Kona Airport BeachPark. The Fire was reported at 3:51 a.m. and caused an estimated $750,000 in damages. Fire officials are currently investigating the cause of the fire, and it is unclear if foul play was a factor at this time.


“Although this is disappointing news, our administration will continue to find ways to restore and maintain our critical Parks infrastructure necessary for our residents’ health, safety, and happiness,” said Mayor Mitch Roth.

The incident occurred just months after a private entity with the Kona community worked on painting and replacing the roofing at the facility. The Department of Parks and Recreation has said it is unclear how long it will be before the bathrooms reopen.

Jeff Fear, who was instrumental in rehabilitating the pavilions and bathrooms at the park, said private funds from his and other businesses and community based resources were used to replace the roofing and painting of the facilities last month. He said requests for funds to pay for the facilities were ignored by the county council, so companies who bore the expenses did so for the betterment of the community.

“This was the only working bathroom on the beach,” he said. “This is devastating to our community.”

Restrooms at the Kekuaokalani Gymnasium and Kona Community Aquatic Center remain open. Residents are asked to plan accordingly before recreating at the Old Airport Beach Park.

The cause of the fire remains under investigation, however Fear noted a homeless camp was set up less that 30 feet from the bathrooms.

The county is waiting for signs to be erected stating the Hawaii Revised Status indicating the area to be a no camping zone. Without the signs, Hawaii Police Department sources say they cannot enforce a no camping zone therefore cannot evict campers at the site.

Witnesses to the incident who may have additional information are asked to contact the Police non-emergency line at 808-935-3311.

“Unfortunately, vandalism, theft and acts of wanton destruction at County park facilities is becoming all too common. This bathroom was our only working bathroom at the beach park area of Kailua Park, and to be standing there this morning watching is smolder just a couple of months after a successful volunteer effort in which a volunteer group painted and re-roofed this facility was disheartening. We are attempting to re-route the water lines in order to get the water to the pavilions and the beach shower running again, but I’m not sure when that can be accomplished,” said Parks and Recreations Director Maurice Messina.

Messina said the department was already in the process of trying to identify a funding source to rebuild the other bathroom facility.

“This puts us even further behind the 8-ball with regards to this beach park. With our limited maintenance and repair budget, we count so much on public/private partnerships to help with the beautification and upkeep of our 300+ parks and facilities, so I feel bad for the numerous volunteers that had a hand in this beautification project – just to watch is all go up in smoke.”

He said after speaking about this incident with the Mayor Tuesday morning, the department will be looking at reprioritizing capital improvement funding request listing to find a way to get this facility up and running for the benefit of the public.

“We ask that anyone with information about this fire to please contact the police non-emergency line,” he said.

Private security guards have been awarded contracts worth over $2 million per year to patrol 10 county parks facilities. Messina said the contract only covers patrol until midnight at Old Kona Airport Park.

RMT was awarded the contract for security at Old Kona Airport on April 1, 2022 at a cost of $1,040 per day, seven days a week from 4 p.m. to midnight.

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