Workday set to help kick off rebirth of play complex

A workday Saturday at the Kalakupua Playground at the 4th Marine Division Park in Haiku will literally help lay the groundwork for the rebirth of the community-built play structure that had deteriorated to the point where it was no longer safe for children.

The county closed the 9-year-old, 20,000-square-foot wooden structure with a castle tower, a treehouse, mazes and swings a year ago this month due to safety reasons. The wood-chip base had disappeared and some of its wooden structure had rotted.

When costs of $600,000 to replace the playground were bandied about, there was a glumness about whether Kalakupua would rise again. A later formal “structural adequacy report” by the county’s Department of Parks & Recreation reduced the estimated price tag to $375,000, but it was still a hefty sum.

So, in consultation with Council Member Mike White and others, the Haiku Community Association set up a playground committee to receive a grant from the county to manage the repair project. This would allow for the committee to partner with the county, businesses and families “to offset some cost” through donations and volunteerism – something that could not happen if the county bid out the project – said David Fry, publicity chairman and treasurer for the playground committee.

“It’s great to see the administration and the community step up to rehabilitate the playground,” said White in an email. “The playground is an important asset for our children.”

The county has alloted $150,000 for the playground, which the committee currently is working to receive as a grant, said Jennifer Livingston, committee co-chairwoman with Netra Halperin. She added that the committee is not sure if the funds will be sufficient to complete the repairs and will have to fundraise to cover a deficiency, if there is one.

The largest expense will be the “rubberized footing,” the current standard for playgrounds, and the committee is finalizing the contract and installation arrangements, Livingston said.

“It is considerably safer,” said Fry. “Everyone advises against the wood chips.”

Saturday’s workday is focused on bringing the community together in the same spirit that helped build the playground in 2004, to clear the ground of weeds and leftover wood chips for the new rubberized base. There also will be repairs made to the boardwalk to the playground.

Fry noted that if the community did not come together in the first place there would be no Kalakupua Playground.

“We have a roadmap to move forward on this,” he said.

Besides the new foundation, some of the rotted wood will need to be replaced and the entire playground sanded and sealed, Fry and Livingston said. The Haiku Community Association currently is working with the county on an agreement to maintain the structure, which will require a regular regimen of wood protection.

Both Fry and Livingston hesitated to give a completion date, though the co-chairwoman took a stab at it.

“The earliest we are shooting for is my birthday, March 10, but I think it will take longer,” she said.

Those interested in joining the workday, from 9 a.m. to noon, should bring water, a hat, gloves, boots and snacks to share.

Weed wackers, shovels, rakes, garbage bags and other equipment that would help the ground clearing would be welcome.

More information, contact Livingston at 268-7913 or go to

* Lee Imada can be reached at