Condo residents upset with plan for park maintenance

Maui Sunset condominium residents expressed concern after learning about the possibility of the county taking over maintenance of the entire adjacent Waipuilani Park, a portion of which has been maintained by the condo owners without charge to the county for decades.

While praising the work of the county parks department, condo residents say the county does not have the budget or the manpower to care for the park like their condo landscaping crew does.

“The park hasn’t always been pristine. There used to be horrible grass and burrs in the grass. It was unacceptable and our gardener worked his magic,” said condo resident Jon Fults, who with his wife, Lois Jean, has owned a condo at Maui Sunset for 33 years.

Condo gardeners mow the grass once a week and irrigate. Once a year, the lawn is dethatched to prevent mold from growing at the base of the grass, Fults said.

Maui Sunset General Manager Jason Sablas couldn’t pinpoint a total cost for the work on the county park area but said that thousands of dollars each year are spent on landscaping for the entire property, which includes that portion of the county park closest to the complex.

The northern portion of Waipuilani Park is currently maintained by the county. Maui Sunset residents say that the area the county cares for contains dirt patches and is in stark contrast to how the condominium cares for the portion of the park fronting their property.

“It is a wonderful example of the citizens living near an area taking responsibility to care for it, rather than lying back and expecting government and taxpayer dollars to do it for them,” said condo resident John Crews.

County spokesman Rod Antone confirmed the change in the maintenance arrangement and said that it was done in part to comply with the County Code, which requires the use of reclaimed wastewater for irrigation purposes where appropriate. Waipuilani Park is an appropriate place to use reclaimed water for irrigation because it is within reach of the distribution system.

As a result, Antone said that installing the recycled water infrastructure and its maintenance will need to be performed by county workers and cannot be done by condo staff.

However, since being alerted to the condo residents’ concerns, Antone said that parks officials will be consulting with Maui Sunset groundskeeping crews to see what can be done.

Council Member Don Couch, who holds the South Maui residency seat, sent an email to condo management and residents. In his email Friday, Couch said that the county “has no immediate plans to change the existing situation” regarding the condo’s maintenance of its section of the park.

Parks Director Ka’ala Buenconsejo was less definitive, saying Friday that “no commitments have been made” regarding Maui Sunset’s continued involvement in the maintenance of its part of the park. “We are still talking with the community,” he said in a text message.

Antone said that the work on the reclaimed water infrastructure at the park will not begin until sometime next year, leaving some leeway for continued conversations.

The use of reclaimed water, also confirmed by the parks director, was an issue with the Maui Sunset residents as well. They said that signs posted in areas where reclaimed water is used for irrigation say that people should wash their hands if they come in contact with the water.

“This is a park with families, children and pets run, roll and play on the lush grass,” said Crews. “That is a big reason they come here.”

Frequent park user Bill Kent noted that toddlers play and roll around in the grass, yoga groups do their exercises and families hold picnics on the lawn.

In his letter, Couch said that recycled water is used at most parks in South Maui with the approval of the state Department of Health, which posts the signs. The R-1 rated water, which originates from the Kihei Wastewater Reclamation facility mauka of Piilani Highway, is treated to the point where it can be used without restrictions, according to a report by the county on its Water Reuse program.

Recycled water in the county is used for landscape irrigation at golf courses, schools, parks, shopping centers and condominiums and on road shoulders and medians. It also is used to water cattle and clean roads and for dust and fire control, according to the report.

The water currently used for irrigation of the park and the condo grounds comes from the condo’s well, said Crews. Switching to R-1 water for the park area does not save public potable water, he added.

Antone acknowledged that the water being used currently for irrigation does not tap county drinking water supplies. However, the purpose of using R-1 water is not entirely to save potable water, he said, but to comply with the county law to use reclaimed water.

Antone said that he understands the concerns of the condominium residents and praised them for their upkeep of the park.

“I understand it’s their baby, and they are proud of it,” he said. “You can’t tell where Maui Sunset property begins and our park begins. It’s that seamless.”

* Melissa Tanji can be reached at mtanji@mauinews.com.



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