HANAMA’ULU — Jerome Freitas has become known as “The Shadow” because he has pushed government officials to make prompt repairs to individual roads, bridges and public facilities he deems to be too old or unsafe to use.
Freitas is now expanding his scope of scrutiny.
He wants government officials to treat all neighborhoods the same way when it comes to developing, repairing and maintaining the infrastructure.
Freitas said he will file a complaint with county officials over what he says is the deplorable condition of playground equipment at a little-used park on Palikea Street in Hanama’ulu.
The climbing equipment hasn’t been changed in nearly two decades, and is rusting, as is the frame of a swing. “This is dangerous to the kids,” Freitas told The Garden Island. “This stuff is too old. It is obsolete. Nobody like play here.”
Two backboards on a single basketball court are rotting, and what appears to be asphalt has been worn away from the center area of the court, the result of exposure to the sun and rain.
Parts of a perimeter frame have come undone, and the some of the metal poles could pose a safety hazard, Freitas said. On Thursday, two county Public Works workers repaired that portion of the fence.
Still, the current condition of the park illustrates clearly, in his mind, how county officials have spent more money on more “popular parks,” and have forgotten about parks that aren’t used as much, Freitas contends.
County officials were not immediately available to comment on the matter.
However, one Kaua’i County Department of Public Works representative, while sympathetic to the concerns of Freitas, indicated department officials have a priority list for work on parks, including those that are used more than others and require more maintenance.
Freitas said the Hanama’ulu park should have equal priority with any park when it comes to repair and maintenance.
“It doesn’t matter” whether some parks are used more than others, Freitas said. “Three to four thousand people live in Hanama’ulu, yeah? They all taxpayers, and they deserve to get services that other folks get.”
If the park were in good running order and “new,” as it was when it opened some 20 years ago, youths from the area would use the park, said one resident who was born and raised in Hanama’ulu.
“When it was brand new, we could hang out over there,” the resident, who is a mother of three children, told The Garden Island.
Because the playground equipment is old and because the outdoor basketball court needs major repairs, the mother said she won’t let her children play there.
“It is not safe over there. It (the playground equipment) is all rusty,” the woman said. “The county should make sure that there is no broken glass and nails there. Yes. They are there.”
So she drives her three children to the basketball court at Kalena Park by the Kaua’i Fire Department’s Lihu’e fire station when they want to play basketball.
“With the price of gas now, I still have to drive,” she said. “It is not a good thing.”
She said the park could become attractive to a new generation of youth and other park users if county officials upgraded the equipment and approved the development of soccer fields at the park.
County leaders have put some money up for improvements at the park, as evidenced by the installation of an emergency siren attached to a pole and powered by solar panels.
The park also is used for the emergency landing of helicopters. A wooden white “X” marks the landing area within the park.
The park, estimated to be between two and three acres, offers a panoramic view of the coastline immediately mauka of Nawiliwili Harbor.
- Lester Chang, staff writer, may be reached at 245-3681 (ext. 225) or firstname.lastname@example.org