Maui News: August 30, 2009

County awaits only permits from itself for project’s start

KIHEI – Before the end of this year, the Maui County Parks and Recreation Department expects to break ground on the much-anticipated South Maui Community Park, said Director Tamara Horcajo.

The county is waiting only on final building permits from its own departments before work begins, perhaps in October, Horcajo said. The 40-acre park, which will be located makai of Piilani Highway between Hope Chapel and Kihei Elementary and Lokelani Intermediate schools, has been in the planning and funding stages for the past nine years.

The more than $9.3 million initial phase of what’s supposed to be a three-phase build out will involve installing all the infrastructure for the entire site, including irrigation, drainage, sewer and water, electricity, a connector road and grass. Goodfellow Bros. Inc., which has the construction contract, will also build a restroom, a parking lot, a soccer field and a softball diamond. The softball field will be lighted as well, Horcajo said.

The Grand Wailea Resort Hotel & Spa also offered to chip in to pay for – and maintain – a 3,000-square-foot playground on the site, Matt Bailey, the luxury resort’s managing director, announced last week.

The county didn’t have the funds to build the playground and agreed to partner on the public park. Grand Wailea employees will volunteer to help ready the grounds and build the playground once the county signs off on the plans, according to a news release by private planners Munekiyo & Hiraga Inc.

“We saw the South Maui playground project as one of great potential allowing us to provide a long-lasting ‘gift’ to the South Maui community, which many of our employees call home,” Bailey said.

A timetable for the completion of Phase I cannot be set until construction actually begins, county officials said.

The entire park project has been delayed this year because engineers encountered some problems with the original plans for the water and electrical lines, Horcajo said. “What we can build next all depends on the kind of funding we get,” she said.

Total project cost is estimated at more than $30 million; no one can say exactly when it will be done, although somewhere between 2015 and 2020 has been suggested by county officials in the past.

Residents and community leaders have said they are particularly excited for the proposed centerpiece of the park, a gymnasium.

Mayor Charmaine Tavares, who has fought for the idea since she was parks director more than a decade ago, also noted that every region in the county has a central park, except South Maui.

“The park is one of the projects that South Maui has been waiting on for many many years,” said Bob Richardson of the Kalama Park Action Team and Kihei Community Association.

He called the upcoming groundbreaking “fantastic.”

There is no public gym in all of South Maui, and building a gym, along with relieving pressure on Kalama Park’s well-used ball fields, were the major impetuses for the South Maui Community Park, said County Council Member Mike Victorino.

Horcajo said planning and design for the entire park is complete, including the gym’s design, “which we would love to see happening now.”

She said the holdup on the 1,000-seat gym, which will have air conditioning and a cafeteria, is a lack of a concrete funding source.

It’s anticipated to cost $10 million to build.

Still, in order to pay for the first round of construction, the County Council and Tavares’ administration have dedicated $6.8 million in general obligation bonds and another $2.5 million in park-assessment fees.

By design, the South Maui Community Park also will be only about two blocks from the existing Kihei Community and Aquatic centers on East Lipoa Street.

“As South Maui grows, so does the area’s need for recreational parks,” Tavares said. “The start of phase one will mean that we’ll be able to bring work to our local construction industry. I’m looking forward to breaking ground and seeing the park become a reality for the community of South Maui.”

Once phase one is complete, these would be the remaining segments, although some of the items are tentative:

* A gym that can seat as many as 1,000; two more soccer fields; two more softball fields (all regulation size); two more playgrounds; a grass amphitheater; a pavilion; two more restrooms; a senior activity area; a youth center; storage space; picnic tables; and lots of trees.

* Outdoor tennis and basketball courts next to the new Kihei Recycling and Redemption Center on Welakahao Road.

* An access roadway created by extending Liloa Drive to connect Welakahao Road to Halekuai Street, with an interior road looping through the park.

The County Council set aside funds for the park in the 2008 and 2009 fiscal years’ budgets, but with most of the work on the project happening behind the scenes it may have been “out of sight, out of mind” for many residents, Victorino said.

Don Couch, who is on the Kihei Community Association’s planning committee, said Saturday that the county’s latest timeline for construction comes as news to the association’s members. County and contracted planners have spent years developing the park in consultation with the association.

“It’s kind of ironic that the county is waiting for its own permits right now,” said Couch, former deputy director of the Planning Department. “Of course, we would like it done yesterday, but we understand that the county has a lot on its plate. We’re supportive of the county. This park is a very welcome addition to the community.”

An artist’s rendering of the new park can be found on the Chris Hart & Partners Inc. Web site:

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