Minuke Ole Park, a roughly 10-acre stretch of overgrown grass, shrubs and trees, might not look like much.
But to the Waimea Preservation Association and its mower gang of do-gooders, it’s an opportunity to restore a space for children to play and others to meet.
Parker Ranch owns the land, located behind the Parker Ranch Center and next to the Kahilu Town Hall. However, the Island of Hawaii YMCA is the park’s keeper.
In 2002, the ranch deeded Kahilu Town Hall to the YMCA, a nonprofit community service organization offering programs and activities that foster personal development.
That transfer included a 99-year lease of this multipurpose community park, which was to be maintained and operated by the Waimea Family YMCA. Former Parker Ranch owner Richard Smart designated the YMCA to receive land and the lease cost is $1 a year, according to Stephens Media Hawaii archives.
The Waimea Family YMCA center closed in 2009, when the Island of Hawaii YMCA consolidated its operations to Hilo to offset effects from the economic downturn. A year later, Mana Christian Ohana, a nondenominational church, purchased the Kahilu Town Hall from the Island of Hawaii YMCA.
During the past five years or so, mowing the grass and other maintenance at the park ceased, as did use by youth sports teams, community groups and residents.
Bobby Stivers-Apiki, who took over as president and CEO of the Island of Hawaii YMCA in January, said his organization has been going through transitions as it works to restructure to financial health. While the YMCA recognizes the park as a large asset in Waimea, its maintenance fell to the wayside because there wasn’t a coordinated plan, he added.
Realizing all that needed to be done to keep this park open was some elbow grease, the Waimea Preservation Association decided to give back to the community by mowing, trimming and reclaiming irrigation. It’s also rallying volunteers and organizing work days, said Bill Sanborn, the association’s president.
Waimea Preservation Association is a nonprofit, community-based organization that helps foster the cultural heritage, prosperity and strength of the Waimea community. It is spearheading this project, serving as a liaison between the community and the Island of Hawaii YMCA. The park used to have two sports fields, said Pete Hendricks, the association’s vice president and a longtime YMCA volunteer.
Waimea Preservation Association is looking for volunteers, particularly those willing to adopt a section of the park to clean and maintain on a regular basis. Donations toward funding portable toilets also are being sought. The lack of public facilities, opened 24 hours a day, in the area has caused some people to find relief in the park, Sanborn said.
In addition, there are plans to rebuild the stone corral walls and host a workshop of the art of traditional Hawaiian dry-stack masonry, he added.
The project launched with the Rotary Club of North Hawaii, a major supporter, with several of its members continuing to donate their time, labor and equipment toward rehabilitating the area.
On April 26, these Rotarians worked on the pavilion the organization built in celebration of the International Rotary’s centennial in 2005. They also repaired the entrance gate, did general landscaping work and removed trash, Sanborn said. The club plans to remove the graffiti on the columns, beams and ceiling, he added.
Monday morning, the smell of freshly cut grass wafted and the buzz of mowers could be heard. The machines’ drivers were Sanborn and Rotarian Doug Carr, who delightfully and dutifully tackled sections of tall grass and overgrowth.
Stivers-Apiki expressed gratitude for all who are volunteering at the park, saying their time and talents are valued. He said the fact volunteers are using their own equipment and paying for the fuel used to mow shows “real commitment.”
Still, the Island of Hawaii YMCA is looking for monetary donations toward buying equipment, fuel and other necessities, which volunteers can use to take care of the park. Until there’s enough funding to hire someone to do regular maintenance, Stivers-Apiki said the organization plans to use this volunteer manpower.
Stivers-Apiki called the situation “a win-win” because it’s bringing people together in a united effort to make the park playable again and a source of pride in the community. He looks forward to children playing on the fields, families picnicking and others enjoying the area again.
Those interested in using the park for games or functions should contact the Island of Hawaii YMCA. All users will be encouraged to give back to the park by participating in this effort, he added.
To get involved, donate or for more information, call Hendricks at 885-4453 or the Island of Hawaii YMCA at 935-3721.
Email Carolyn Lucas-Zenk at firstname.lastname@example.org.