Waikoloa Community Group Takes on Restoration of Local Park
A community group is taking action to revitalize a Waikoloa Village park.
Alexandra Mevs, a mother and resident of the Village, said Pu’u Nui Park has deteriorated over the years and that it is time something was done about it. She does not stand alone with that opinion.
“It needs a refresh,” Mevs said. “It needs safer equipment for the kids. That’s the most important thing.”
But the project is about more than just making a better playground area for children in the Village. It is also about improving all of Waikoloa by revamping a shared, public space that brings people together and instills a sense of collective pride.
“My daughter was distance learning (during the pandemic), and I wanted social time for her,” Mevs said. “We would walk to the park, and no one was ever there. It was just sad.”
She found that others in the community felt similarly, and Friends of Pu´u Nui Park was born. Since creating itself earlier this year, the group has formulated a plan on how to make improvements to the area and bring back local interest in visiting there.
The renovation plan includes removing an older, wooden play structure from the site and replacing it with one approved by Hawai´i County. A resurfacing of the play area so that it is compliant with stipulations set forth by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is also part of the plan.
“The (structure) currently there is kind of bizarre and unsafe,” Mevs said. “The swings are gone. New people moving into Waikoloa Village walk by the park and think it is deserted and abandoned.”
The Department of Parks and Recreation will have to approve the renovation plan, portions of which director Maurice Messina said are currently under review.
“We met and sent our park planner to the park to do an assessment,” Messina said. “What areas do we consider safety hazards? What areas can the Friends of Park take care of? And where can the county come in and help?”
Getting the ball rolling on a project like the Pu´u Nui Park restoration requires a Friends of the Park agreement, something Messina said the department traffics in quite frequently. It just recently reached such an accord with a group in Kailua-Kona looking to improve William Charles Lunalilo Playground, also known as Blue Park.
Parks and Rec has only an $800,000 annual budget for park maintenance, a far cry from enough to manage the scores of public parks and their facilities located across the Big Island. Local community groups, like the one Mevs has helped start in Waikoloa, allow for what Messina described as crucial private/public partnerships to improve places like Pu´u Nui Park, which were vibrant once and could be again.
“We want it to be a place in the Village that’s ours,” said Mevs, expounding upon what phase 2 of park renovation would look like following a resurfacing and a replacement of the aforementioned play structure. “We have ideas of building a running track and having it painted like a road, so kids could bring their bikes and scooters. We’d like to expand into areas of the park that are underutilized and make a mud garden, basing (available activities) on nature and education.”
But grand visions are accompanied by grand price tags. Mevs said the initial estimate the group has put together is around $120,000. While the county will perhaps be able to foot some of that bill, the lion’s share will need to be fundraised. Efforts to that effect have already begun, Mevs said.
Waikōloa Community Development Corporation is a registered nonprofit and serves as the fiscal sponsor of the fundraising effort, according to a letter drafted and circulated by members the group.
Friends of Pu´u Nui Park is currently inquiring about possible grants for which the project might be eligible. Beyond that, the group has created a Facebook group and a GoFundMe account to get things moving. In-person fundraising ideas have also been floated, but will remain on the backburner until COVID-19 pandemic restrictions are rolled back enough to allow them a chance of success.
“We appreciate the communities and their willingness to assists us,” Messina said. “The financial situation we’re in, we couldn’t do (revitalization projects) without these public/private partnerships.”
“If any other communities would like to have informal meetings or discussions about their community parks, they should contact us and we’ll set up a meeting on site.”