KUKUIHAELE, Hawaii – A loud protest carried out by a handful of passionate Kukuihaele residents met construction crews Wednesday morning at the site of a controversial project.
The day before, the County of Hawaii blessed the $5 million redevelopment of the scenic Kukuihaele Park. The project will bring a new baseball field, pavilion, comfort station, fencing, playground and parking lot to the grassy parcel, which currently offers impressive views of nearby Waipi’o Valley. But not everyone is in support of the idea.
With chants of “a’ole ball field” and signs that read “Save Our Park”, the protesters voiced their disapproval of the project as police stood by. There had been talk of civil disobedience earlier in the week.
“Because we know that this project will make our neighborhood much more hazardous, we are willing to engage in civil disobedience to block construction,” wrote Koohan Paik, the Secretary of the Kukuihaele Neighborhood Association, in a recent letter to Hawaii County Police Chief Harry Kubojiri.
“In the non-violent protest spirit of Gandhi and Martin Luther King,” Paik wrote, “we will be doing all we can to block the heavy machines from starting this project.”
Those who are against the project say it will bring too much traffic to the small road going through the village. Paik also expressed concern over burials known to be located along the road. She is also worried the project will over burden the area water supply.
The group took the county to court over the finding of no significant impact detailed in the project environmental assessment. Paik also wrote about the lawsuit in her letter to the police chief.
True, the lower court denied our injunction request (as well as our challenge to the FONSI determination). That means that, even though we are appealing this case, the County can legally start construction without an injunction. But though it may be legal, it is not moral. It is unfair (and totally unnecessary) for the County to push this project onto the neighborhood before the conclusion of our court appeal. We are thoroughly baffled as to why the County is unwilling to wait until the court proceedings are pau to bulldoze this project on our community. In the mean time, we will be applying for an “injunction pending appeal.”
Construction went forward as planned today, despite the protest.
While news cameras were there, no one was arrested and the demonstration remained peaceful.
After this morning’s events, the County of Hawaii Department of Parks and Recreation put out a media release announcing “the temporary closure of Kukuihaele Park effective immediately and continuing through completion of construction activities, currently anticipated to be in April of 2017.”
The project will improve and enhance the recreational facilities provided at this rural park for the benefit of area youth, residents and our entire island community. In addition to replacing the existing outdoor basketball court and upgrading the sports field, the County is investing in a new pavilion andrestroom facility to support community gatherings, a new walking path to promote healthy living, and amenities such as picnic tables, onsite parking, safety improvements, and enhanced landscaping.
The general contractor has fenced off the entire perimeter of the park for public safety, and the County respectfully requests the public’s assistance in honoring the contractor’s worksite and ongoing construction operations.