Maui County’s parks grow to meet needs of the community

Our County

When this administration came on board in 2011, we noticed that Maui County had one of those good news/bad news issues with our parks. The good news was our parks are incredibly popular and everyone wanted to use them for everything from family gatherings and community events to soccer practice, baseball tournaments and even cricket matches. The bad news was, everyone wanted to do all of these things at our parks at the same time.

Our local families are active and they like doing things outside. This is a very good thing, and probably a reason why Hawaii keeps getting ranked as the healthiest state in the nation, or close to it in a number of polls and studies. (The last one was a Gallup poll earlier this year that ranked our state the third healthiest in the country.)

This is why throughout our time here we pushed for the expansion of our parks. We had close to 200 acres in 2011 and now we have almost 600 acres. But even with the new space, demand is still high and our permitting offices say they are busier than ever trying to keep up with all the requests to use our parks.

You can see this for yourself if you visit our parks on almost any given day. At Eddie Tam Gymnasium in Makawao, for example, you will see adults playing pickup basketball outside while kids have basketball practice in the gym. There’s soccer and baseball practice going on and pingpong clubs meeting in the downstairs gym area. Even the dog park nearby is busy with people and their pets.

And you can see this any weekday afternoon. Weekends are even busier. So as the demand for park space and facilities continues to increase, our Department of Parks and Recreation continues to grow and evolve to meet the needs of our community. Here’s how:

• Maui Lani Regional Park is now officially a county park. The park consists of 14.4 acres, which includes soccer fields, football fields and restrooms.

• Another phase of the Central Maui Regional Sports Complex has been completed. The state built this park and handed it over to the county for the community to use, thanks to former Lt. Gov. Shan Tsutsui. Once all phases are finished, this 65.3-acre park will have eight baseball/softball fields, two soccer and flag football fields, four restrooms and two concession stands.

• Master planning has been funded for the Lahaina Civic Center. This very important fixture in West Maui is used for senior gatherings, community meetings and family and sports events. The master planning will help us update the property for the better of everyone who uses it.

• Master planning for the Hana Civic Center has also been funded. Like the Lahaina Civic Center, this facility is used by the entire Hana community. Improvements to the Hana Ball Park and basketball and tennis courts were funded as well.

• Design and reconstruction at Wells Park will implement the updates from the master planning process. They include reconfiguring courts, pool modifications and improvements to the fencing, restroom, lighting and landscaping.

• Master planning for the South Maui Community Park, including the design of the ballfields and soccer fields. Supplemental funding also approved for design of the South Maui Community Park Recreation Center.

• Reconstruction and repairs at a majority of our parks facilities on Lanai, including the Lanai Gym, Lanai Parks Maintenance Building and the Lanai Community Center Commercial Kitchen.

• Repairs and improvements at Molokai parks facilities, including at Duke Mailu Park, Kaunakakai Ball Park, Kilohana Recreation Center and Kualapuu Recreation Center.

I could go on and on about all of the park-related projects funded this year, but space is limited. The bottom line is that our parks department listened to the needs of our community and submitted a list of projects that will continue to improve the public’s park experience in Maui County.

Mahalo to Parks Director Ka’ala Bueconsejo and his staff, as well as County Council Budget and Finance Committee Chairman Riki Hokama and Council Chair Mike White for supporting these projects through the budget process.

* “Our County,” a column from Maui County Mayor Alan Arakawa, is about county issues and activities of county government. The column usually appears on the first and third Fridays of the month.