New playground equipment for Waikōloa Village park sits in storage container for months

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Old park equipment was removed at Pu‘u Nui Park. New equipment has been purchased for the site, but has been sitting in a storage container waiting to be installed by the county. Photo credit: Alex Mevs

Since late September, new playground equipment for Pu‘u Nui Park in Waikōloa Village has been sitting in a locked 40-foot Matson storage container taking up a big chunk of the parking lot. When it will be installed, nobody knows.

Hawaiʻi County is currently meeting requirements — stemming from a lawsuit against the county — to make all its parks handicap accessible. These projects have forced the long-awaited community project in Waikōloa to be put on the back burner, the county said.

“We have not forgotten about the Pu‘u Nui Park project, we just have numerous active projects,” said Maurice Messina, the director of the county’s Parks and Recreation Department.

The playground equipment, with a price tag of $104,780, was purchased with money raised from several fundraisers held last year by Waikōloa Village residents committed to seeing the park revitalized.

The two play structures that are sitting in a container in the parking lot are colorful with multiple slides and climbing areas. There is a swing set, including a toddler swing. It will replace the old wooden and metal structure that had been in disrepair for years.

Pictures of new playground structures that are now in a storage container waiting to be installed at Pu‘u Nui Park in Waikōloa Village. Photo credit: Alex Mevs

Val Payne, founder of Friends of Pu‘u Nui Park that led the fundraising efforts for the new equipment, said the mission of the group is to have a safe place for children to play.

“We did all this work pretty fast,” said Alex Mevs, a member of Friends for Puʻu Nui Park. “The old equipment has been removed, now it’s just a construction site.”

The next steps in the equipment installation are now in the hands of Hawai‘i County Parks and Recreation Department.

The Friends of Pu‘u Nui Park has worked with closely with Hawai‘i County’s Park and Recreation Department since the beginning. On Oct. 13, 2021, the county sent a letter of commitment to the Waikōloa Community Development Corporation, which is a registered nonprofit, serving as the fiscal sponsor of the group’s fundraising efforts. The letter stated that the county commits to work with the community to see the project completed.

On Tuesday, Messina said the county agreed to create a topographic survey of the playground, which is needed before surfacing can be put down. The county also has agreed to buy and install safety surfacing compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act, which is a federal requirement at all parks.

  • A local construction company built playhouses at Pu‘u Nui Park in Waikōloa Village. Photo credit: Val Payne
  • New playground equipment is being kept in a locked storage container in the parking lot at Pu‘u Nui Park in Waikōloa Village. Photo credit: Alex Mevs
  • A spinner was installed at Pu‘u Nui Park in Waikōloa Village. Photo credit: Alex Mevs
  • Orange plastic fencing is posted around where the old playground equipment was taken out at Pu‘u Nui Park in Waikōloa Village. Photo credit: Alex Mevs
  • Keiki entertain each other at the new playhouses built at Pu‘u Nui Park in 2022. Photo credit: Val Payne
  • Friends of Pu‘u Nui Park raised money to remove old playground equipment that was damaged and missing pieces in 2021. Photo credit: Alex Mevs
  • Metal protruded from tires on the playground at Pu‘u Nui Park in Waikōloa Village. Photo credit: Val Payne

Messina said the Pu‘u Nui Park work is on hold because the entire department’s projects team is working on the mandated ADA transition projects at 14 county parks.

Crews are in the middle of the last few projects, which include: La‘aloa Preservation Project; Waiakea Uka renovation; an environmental assessment for Kailua Park, Hawai’i Paradise Park, Kikala-Keokea project, Ocean View Skate Park; Hilo skate park; Laupahoehoe Pool; Laupahoehoe Boat Ramp; and Kohala Pool repairs.

“We’re obviously falling behind on some of these projects due to a shortage of staff to manage them,” Messina said. “Decades of deferred maintenance at our 300 plus facilities has us chasing our tail trying to keep up.” 

The ADA transition projects are a result of a lawsuit filed against the county for not having accessible beach parks.

Crystalena Morris, member of Friends of Puʻu Nui Park, sent an email to Mayor Mitch Roth’s office earlier this month where she identified an architect who could help complete the topography design using money they raised for the park or ask that they donate their time.


Messina said the county will work with the architect on the design and submit it to the state Disability and Communication Access Board for ADA review/clearance.

The storage container holding their future play equipment is currently becoming not just an eye sore but blocking half of the park’s parking lot.

“People think it’s us, that we gave up mid project, but that’s not the case,” Mevs said.

The old playground was a wooden structure with metal pieces. Payne said there were a lot of pieces missing, including slides and at one point a climbing net.

“It had slivers sticking out of it,” Payne said.

Tires that were part of the playground had metal coming out of them. One springer horse was tilted and broken and a swing set had no swings or chains.

“It was pretty sorry looking,” Payne said.

While the new playground isn’t set up, there have been other improvements made to the park.

During their fundraising efforts, Payne said they received a $40,000 donation from Edmentum, an educational company, to install a spinner. Three little playhouses and a little stage were built by TMS Construction. Payne said members of the group picked up hundreds of bags to lay rubberized mulch around the spinner.

“There’s a lot of sweat equity for sure,” Payne said.

Tiffany DeMasters
Tiffany DeMasters is a full-time reporter for Pacific Media Group. Tiffany worked as the cops and courts reporter for West Hawaii Today from 2017 to 2019. She also contributed stories to Ke Ola Magazine and Honolulu Civil Beat.

Tiffany can be reached at
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