Playground to reopen after years of repairs

Four years after it closed because safety concerns, the Kalakupua Playground in Haiku reopens today after a nearly three-year repair effort by volunteers.

“I’m really stoked for the community,” said Jennifer Livingston, chairwoman of the Haiku Community Association’s Parks Committee, which oversaw and guided the repairs of the playground, the first of its kind on Maui when it was built in 2004, at the 4th Marine Division Park.

“A lot of people came out to help. (And) a lot of people are excited about having it open,” she said Friday as volunteers were putting finishing touches on the facility that will be maintained by the community association.

Volunteers will be completing their work beginning at 9 a.m. today, with the playground officially opening at 1 p.m., when work is expected to be completed. There will be a potluck and blessing at that time.

The county closed the 9,000-square-foot wooden park with a castle tower, treehouse, mazes and swings in October 2012, because of safety concerns. The wood-chip base had disappeared, and some of its wooden structure had rotted. The playground opened in 2004, after hundreds of volunteers erected it in a barn-raising style. Organizers at the time estimated the park to cost around $200,000.

Over time, the original team moved on. Their children grew up, and funding was lost. That led the facility to fall into disrepair, according to the Haiku Community Association website. After consultation with Council Member Mike White and others, the Haiku Community Association set up a playground committee to receive a $150,000 grant from the county to manage the repair project. (Estimates to replace the structure were up to $600,000.) To offset some of the costs, the nonprofit was put in charge to allow volunteer work and a partnership was formed with the county.

In October 2013, community workdays were organized to begin structure repairs.

Livingston said that if no one stepped up, the playground would have been demolished.

“We felt like it was a beautiful community resource, and it was very salvageable,” she said.

Livingston said that over the nearly three years of repair work there were at least 300 people who volunteered, including some involved with the original building project who moved to the Mainland and were back on Maui visiting family and friends.

“It was amazing,” Livingston said.

The playground includes four slides, swings, a climbing wall, monkey bars, a climbing bridge, balance beam and sitting areas. It also has the mosaic tile artwork from the original structures.

Children did much of the painting work on the playground, Livingston said.

She had yet to tally the costs of the park as of Friday, but said that it would be slightly less than $150,000. Unused money will be returned to the county.

To prevent the playground from deteriorating quickly in the moist Haiku climate, Livingston said swales were put in. Now, drainage features channel water away from the structure rather than underneath.

Also, new high-grade, treated lumber was used to repair the structure along with high-quality exterior paint that seals up the wood, preventing water from penetrating it.

But maintenance work will need to be done on the park periodically, and that will be undertaken by the nonprofit Haiku Community Association. The group is signing a 10-year maintenance agreement with the county Parks Department.

Livingston is seeking volunteers to do maintenance work from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. on the first Saturday of each month.

“It’s great that it’s open, (but) to keep it open we really need the community to come out and take care of it. This is a community playground,” she said.

The association also is seeking donations to help with maintenance costs.

Businesses have stepped up to the plate to help with repairs and the future maintenance. Donations have been received from Aloha Aina Center, North Shore Zipline and Haleakala Bike Co., Livingston said.

Livingston said Kalakupua, which is the only public park in Haiku and neighboring areas, other than those on school campuses, is not only a playground but a place for the community to gather and people to get to know one another and share resources.

A community effort is underway to urge the county to build a paved pathway in 4th Marine Park as a safe area for children to ride their bikes or to roller-skate.

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* Staff Writer Melissa Tanji can be reached at