Of the nearly 300 parks the City and County is responsible for on Oahu, 31 of them are so-called mini parks.
Combined, they make up about 40 of the more than 5,000 acres of city park land.
As we set out to learn more about these small parks, we came across a huge problem tucked away in the middle of one Kalihi neighborhood.
Oahu’s smallest mini park, measuring just 0.04 acres, could be mistaken for a yard attached to a home. Located at the corner of Wilder Avenue and Metcalf Street, two well-traveled thoroughfares, it’s highly visible and well-maintained.
Unfortunately the same cannot be said for all of the island’s mini parks.
RJ Domingo lives with his family directly across the Auld Lane Mini Park in Kalihi, which, strangely enough, is split in half by a street than runs right through it.
One side is overgrown with head-high weeds and grass, the other side resembles more of a dump than a park, complete with what appears to be a hastily built structure.
“I’m guessing it’s part of park because it’s all one area, and with this side, I don’t know. They just built this (structure),” Domingo said. “I don’t know (who), the renter that was living downstairs, but ever since he passed away, it’s just been sitting here.”
We took Domingo’s concerns to Michele Nekota, director of the city’s Department of Parks and Recreation. She said she was unaware of the conditions at the Auld Lane Mini Park.
We asked, what can be done?
“In that type of scenario, the public, somebody, if they want to tell us to check the park, we will make sure we do that and make sure it’s always cleaned up,” Nekota said. “We need these types of parks in our urban settings.”
Auld Lane resident Lovi Domingo says she’d like to see the area maintained: “If the city wants to change it to a nice green park, that’s fine, or maybe a little park for the kids on the side. That would be great.”
Domingo said in the 20 years she’s lived across from the park, she’s never seen any improvements or maintenance. In fact, she says she only recently learned what the two small parcels of land were.
“We never knew it was a park,” she said. “This past year, they put that Auld Lane park sign so now we know it’s a park.”
Nekota says staff from each district are normally assigned to maintain several parks with priority given to the most heavily used parks.
We asked when was the last time the Auld Lane Mini Park was maintained. The city tells us it has no record.
The day after we notified Nekota, city crews appeared, and have since returned two more times to clean up the overgrown vegetation on one side of the street, removing everything from car parts to bicycles, and the old shed from the other side.
In all, they hauled away more than 10 truck loads of junk.
“This is the third time they’ve been back since we initially came?” KHON2 asked Lovi Domingo.
“Correct,” she said.
“Before that, how long had it been since anybody’s come by to inspect this park, as far as you know?” KHON2 asked.
“Haha, 20-something years,” she replied.
Domingo says she’s thankful for the city’s efforts and hopes it’s just the beginning of a complete transformation of the mini park — something the community can rally behind and be proud of.
“To see that it’s like this, and the city and county can maintain it or for it to be used for something else for the community, well then, praise them,” she said.
Nekota says going forward, the parks department will do routine checks of all parks, including the mini parks.
She adds if the public sees something that needs to addressed, they can notify the department or police.