State: Damage at Kakaako park is worse than expected

Kakaako Waterfront Park Damage
Published: Oct. 12, 2017 at 8:12 PM HST|Updated: Oct. 13, 2017 at 5:52 AM HST
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KAKAAKO, OAHU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Just days after closing Kakaako Waterfront Park indefinitely, state crews are assessing the damage left by homeless campers.

And they say it's worse than they expected.

The park has been closed to the public since Sunday as crews removed trash by the truckloads. Items like air conditioners, refrigerators, even artwork were found at the illegal campsite.

The Hawaii Community Development Authority said the more their crews looked around the park, the more damage they find.

"When you see the amount of damage that's been done, we know that there's probably more that we haven't discovered yet," said HCDA spokesman Garett Kamemoto.

The agency said at least 38 light poles will need to be repaired after the homeless campers tapped into live wires to access electricity.

Kamemoto said it could cost about $1,200 to fix each pole.

And nearby water pipes and irrigation valves are leaking, creating a major safety hazard for the state.

"Just by looking at the scope of things, we're going to have to prioritize what we get to first. When the conditions get this bad, it's regrettable, but we knew we had to take action," Kamemoto said.

Park goers say they're concerned about the indefinite length of the closure, but many also recognize that it was needed.

Yun Chang said he takes his daughter, Yuna, to the nearby Children's Discovery Center every few weeks. Since the sweep, he said it's been a better environment for the kids.

"It feels a lot more safer and cleaner. It's more comfortable walking around over here," he said.

But Chang adds the closure has been inconvenient for park users.

"There's no parking. We always used to park at the park so I think that's going to be an issue," Chang said.

There is still no timeline on when the park will reopen and surfers cannot walk through the grounds to access the ocean in the meantime.

HCDA said the closure is working to prevent the illegal campers from coming back.

"We're hoping that we'll be able to get more consistent enforcement of park closure hours and that's our goal," said Kamemoto, adding that HCDA may open the park in phases, prioritizing the more popular areas with the least damage.

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