Honolulu Star-Advertiser

Honolulu City Councilwoman Kymberly Pine and leaders in the Makaha community don’t want to just expand the city’s traditional Adopt-a-Park program; they want to turn the concept on its head.

Not satisfied with merely painting over graffiti on walls or picking up trash, they’re ready to reshape Makaha Community Park into a central gathering place for Wai­anae Coast residents by tackling roof repairs and other capital improvements, and starting programs and classes for youths and adults.

Nonprofit, Makaha-based Active Hawaii Organization recently adopted the park through the traditional means set up by the city Parks and Recreation Department. Cedric Gates, the group’s co-founder (also a Green Party candidate running for the state 44th House District seat), said he was told his group will now be able to hold cleanups and paint over graffiti.

“Just adopting a park isn’t good enough,” Gates said. “We want to actually get to the root of the problems in our community.”

Pine said if she had her way, she’d want every park in her district from Ewa Beach to Makaha adopted.

“But not your typical adopting-a-park,” she said. “Our vision: We’re going to combine numerous nonprofits for every park, with financial resources that will come from maybe foundations, businesses or even unions that are willing (to provide) the funds needed to improve facilities, not just clean parks.”

Makaha Community Park is the first example of that. Pine cobbled together folks from all segments of the community to make the changes at Makaha Community Park.

An estimated $60,000 in equipment and sweat equity was donated by the Laborers International Union of North America Local 368 and other groups for a series of improvements, including repairs to the leaky community pavilion roof and bathroom sinks, replacement of broken light fixtures and installation of water fountains. Meanwhile, groups like Gate’s Active Hawaii and Kaala Farm are set to offer classes for youths and adults on a range of topics from financial literacy to cultural awareness.

Getting the necessary approvals for all the capital improvements took time, Pine said, requiring the volunteers to go to three different city agencies over a period of several months.

Enter Pine’s Bill 58, which puts into ordinance a broad description of what a person or entity that adopts a park can actually do, including the ability to “engage in other approved activities and projects, subject to the director’s approval.”

“The program we are hoping to implement as the bill evolves will simplify large and small donations of goods services,” Pine said. “Right now it is almost impossible to do, and procedures change from one administration to the next. When we are done with this legislation, it will be very clear to large and small donors and groups of the exact procedures they need to follow based on the type of help that they want to provide to parks.”

The bill will get its first airing at this month’s regularly scheduled Council meeting on Wednesday.

In response to the Hono­lulu Star-Advertiser’s request of Mayor Kirk Caldwell’s administration for a comment on the bill, Managing Director Ember Shinn said in a statement, “We are happy to work with Councilmember Pine on this bill which is substantively similar to the Adopt-A-Park program established by (Department of Parks and Recreation) rules.”

But there are no written criteria or rules pertaining to community adoption of city parks in either city ordinances or parks rules.

Deputy Parks and Recreation Director Jeanne Ishi­kawa, through Caldwell spokes­man Jesse Broder Van Dyke, said the Adopt-a-Park Hoa Paka program is a long-standing program that is not subject to city ordinances and therefore not required to have written rules.

There is, however, a two-page application available at the department for those wishing to adopt a park. By signing the application, the adopters agree to “assume partial maintenance responsibility for the park” and to do so “in a safe and reasonable manner.”

As of July there were 274 participants in the Adopt-a-Park program, Ishi­kawa said.

But bureaucracy can get in the way of community do-gooders, according to Pine.

The Ewa Beach Lions Club, which adopted One­ula Beach Park, offered repeatedly to water the grass there, a request that fell on deaf ears, Pine said. Today the grass there is dead and the fields unusable, she said.

Pine said it makes sense, during a time of fiscal austerity and dwindling resources, to encourage community interests to help with the parks in their neighborhoods in whatever way they can.

“The departments need to somehow simplify the donation and permitting process,” she said.

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