Kakaako park damage worse than anticipated: ‘The more we look, the more we discover’

Kakaako Waterfront Park was closed to the public indefinitely last weekend.

The Hawaii Community Development Authority said it is a matter of safety.

“We’ve known for a while that they’ve been breaking things, like sprinkler heads and things like that, so there’s been water problems for some time, but for it to reach a scale like this,” said Garett Kamemoto, HCDA community outreach officer.

There are also a handful of damaged electrical junctions and spigots tapped into water sources that pose possible contamination issues.

“This really was a safety concern for the public,” Kamemoto said. “The more we look, the more we discover, and the more the contractors look, the more they discover.”

KHON2 was told that 120 campsites were cleared out and more than 180 people were living in the park.

The amount of garbage cleaned out over the last four days was also substantial.

“We’ve been talking about at least 220 cubic yards and then another 15 truck loads,” Kamemoto said.

We wanted to know how much it would cost to fix the park and who would be paying for it.

“We’ve been saying a half-million dollars, but some of those costs are more of an inconvenience than a health and safety concern,” Kamemoto said. “HCDA does have a certain amount budgeted from certain fees that we collect over the years, but ultimately it’s all taxpayer money, regardless of the source of it.”

We asked how the issue got to this point, and how they plan to avoid this happening again once the park is reopened.

“For HCDA, our job is to manage the parks, and that’s what we can do,” Kamemoto said. “We can ask people to leave, but we can’t force them to do it under our rules.”

Kamemoto added, “We’re hoping that we’re going to be able to get more consistent enforcement of park closure hours, and that’s our goal and we’re going to work toward that. We’re restructuring some contracts right now in order to do that from our side.”

Officials aren’t sure when the park will reopen.

“I know people want us to open various areas, and we will. We’re going to prioritize things so the most popular areas and the ones with the least amount of damage will open first,” Kamemoto said.

With the parking area in front of waterfront park closed, parking for the Children’s Discovery Center is limited.

Jamie McSorley brought her kids to the center for fall break, and said parking was the only problem they had.

“We had to drive around to find parking. The meter parking is only for two hours, but this place is so great that you want to stay for more than two hours,” McSorley said. “We had to come back and put quarters two times, because there’s very minimal parking right here.”

Even with the limited parking, McSorley said she’d still come back.

There have been complaints from the public about access to the surf breaks off the park area, but Kamemoto says there are other ways to reach the surf breaks via the ocean.

“I understand that some surfers have been accessing the surf from the Ala Moana side and just paddling over,” he said. “We just need to keep the park clear of people so our people can do their work, andd if we get cooperation, we’ll be able to do it more expeditiously.”

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