A brighter future for county parks

LIHUE — Changes will be coming soon to a few Kauai public parks over the next few months as county-contracted workers install new lights aimed at curbing electricity costs and impacts on protected birds.  

“This project is part of a larger effort to retrofit all of the county’s facility lights to minimize impacts on endangered and threatened species,” Department of Parks and Recreation Director Leonard Rapozo Jr. said in an email.

This project, according to county purchasing documents, calls for the retrofitting of 37 ball field lights at Kekaha Faye Field, Waimea Canyon Park, Koloa Park and Kapaa New Town Park that are all estimated to be more than 20 years old.

The $1,647,700 contract for the entire project, including labor, materials, equipment, machinery and other construction costs, was awarded to Paul’s Electrical Contracting, LLC in Aiea.

As of Friday, Rapozo said county staff was working on drafting the contract but had not issued a notice for the Oahu-based company to proceed with the work. This retrofitting work, according to county purchasing documents, must be completed within 180 calendar days after the notice to proceed has been sent.

The ongoing effort to retrofit ballpark lights in county parks dates back to about 2007.

“During this time, research and work for all county parks have been addressed,” Rapozo said.

Since then, he said retrofitting work has taken place at Hanapepe Stadium, Vidinha Stadium, Kapaa Stadium, Lihue Tennis Courts, Peter Rayno Park and Isenberg Park.

The upgrades are one of recent steps being taken by the county to meet the requirements of a 2010 Justice Department plea agreement in which the county and Kauai Island Utility Cooperative admitted to violating the Migratory Bird Treaty Act.

The charges, at the time, blamed the deaths of Newell’s shearwaters on the lighting policies at county facilities.

The county’s agreement included a $15,000 fine, a $30,000 donation to the Kauai Humane Society’s Save Our Shearwater program and $180,000 to the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation to benefit the Newell’s shearwater.

According to the Kauai Humane Society-backed Save Our Shearwaters website, seabird fledglings “are guided by the light of the moon out to sea” when they leave their nests.

These birds become confused by stray light and fall inland instead of continuing their journey out to sea.

Phone calls to Save Our Shearwaters were not returned before press time.

To prevent these incidences, Rapozo said the lights will be available seven days a week from 6 to 10 p.m. during “non-fledging season” — dates outside of the shearwaters’ fledgling season, which runs from Sept. 15 to Dec. 15.

The systems at each facility, he said, will include a push button to turn the lights on for an hour at a time and an alert system at the end of each hour that will warn users that the button needs to be pushed again for additional use. If the button is not pressed, the lights will turn off.

The fixtures also have a cut off design that directs light better, prevents “spill off” to unnecessary areas, uses less energy and requires less fixtures than before to light the same area.

“Based on previous retrofit work, interruption of park use should be kept to a minimum,” Rapozo said. “We will do our best to avoid conflicts with previously planned events.”

• Darin Moriki, staff writer and photographer, can be reached at 245-0428 or dmoriki@thegardenisland.com.

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