'Failure of government': Closure of popular Kakaako parks irks many

Published: Oct. 8, 2017 at 8:42 PM HST|Updated: Oct. 9, 2017 at 12:21 PM HST
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn
(Image: Hawaii News Now)
(Image: Hawaii News Now)

KAKAAKO, OAHU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Three urban Honolulu parks have been closed indefinitely following safety concerns and as the sites saw a growing number of illegal homeless campers.

On Tuesday, red and white "No Trespassing" signs were placed around Kakaako Waterfront Park, Gateway Park and Kewalo Basin, warning park users of the official closure beginning at 10 p.m. Sunday.

State officials said of 180 homeless campers at the parks, 30 were placed into shelters, including five families.

Four people have been placed into permanent housing.

About a dozen outreach workers spent Sunday helping the remaining families.

"A lot of them have been building relationships and rapport with individuals in the park and offering access to shelter and other information," said Scott Morishige, state homeless coordinator.

This is the second time in a year the park will close indefinitely.

The Hawaii Community Development Authority, which owns the land, says it can no longer ensure the safety of park users after a recent series of vandalism, fires and dog attacks attributed to the homeless.

There are also exposed wires on about 30 poles and broken plumbing.

"Right now, the level of damage to the park makes it so that it's not a safe place," Morishige said.

It's not just the homeless who will have to find another place to go, park regulars are being pushed out too.

Many wonder how many more times the state will need to close the park due to homeless.

"A lot of us are retired and we pay taxes, are we supposed to pay for them?" said resident Melvin Horimoto.

"I know there's a high level of frustration," said state Rep. Scott Saiki whose district includes Kakaako. "It reflects the failure of government to address the homeless issue and by extension the larger issue of housing."

Saiki said he plans to ask the state House to make housing a priority in the next legislative session.

HCDA officials estimate the cost of repairs could reach $500,000.

"The park will be closed for health and safety reasons and to allow HCDA to have the time to assess the level of damage and to make necessary repairs to the park, so it can open as quickly as possible for public use," Morishige said.

While there is no set date for when the parks will reopen, officials hope to at least have Gateway Park open in a month.

Copyright 2017 Hawaii News Now. All rights reserved.