By TOM CALLIS
Tribune-Herald staff writer
The Hawaii County Department of Parks and Recreation may have found a colorful solution to the issue of illegal activity at Kalakaua Park.
Parks and Recreation Director Clayton Honma said he will look at adding flower boxes along a wall on the makai side of the downtown Hilo park that nearby businesses complain is used too frequently as a hangout spot for the homeless and vagrants.
That solution was proposed by several Hilo Downtown Improvement Association board members as an alternative to removing the short wall all together, as the department was planning to do in response to the complaints.
Honma said it could be a few weeks before the planters are in place.
The director met with HDIA representatives and business owners at the park Thursday to discuss the issue, raised by Mason Yamaki of Carlsmith Ball.
The law firm is located adjacent to the park, and Yamaki said he often sees drug use by people sitting on the wall outside his office window.
“They are not just hanging out,” he said. “They are drinking and smoking.”
Yamaki said he preferred to have the roofs over portions of the walkway removed to deter illegal activity.
Parks and Recreation rejected that idea and offered to remove the wall as a compromise.
But that plan was heavily criticized by several DIA board members at the park Thursday, who questioned whether removing public architecture would accomplish much.
“I don’t understand how this solves this problem at all,” said Christine Mingo.
“If successful in removing them from the area they will go elsewhere downtown,” she said.
Others said they believe it would infringe on the rights of the public to use the park or move the problem a few feet away.
Before rain moved in, about a half dozen people were sitting on the wall Thursday, either to relax or talk with friends.
None thought removing the wall was a goovd idea.
“It’s a nice place to hang out,” said Jessica Jovel, adding she meets friends their regularly under the covered area to talk story or watch plays at the park.
Jason Bush, who is homeless, said park users should be able to hang out in that area whether homeless or not.
“Why call it a public park if they are going to be like that?” he said.
If the county wants to reduce the homeless presence in parks, providing more services would be a better solution, Bush added.
“There’s no place else for us to go,” he said.
Email Tom Callis at firstname.lastname@example.org.