LIHUE — Kaina Makua wants Westside keiki to believe they can achieve anything they set their mind to.
“However long it takes not only to get the message of winning, but also having a really good work ethic,” he said.
Makua, director of a Waimea-based nonprofit Kumano I Ke Ala, is entering a stewardship agreement with the county.
“Because we see a lot of our Westside kids getting into the norm, which you see everywhere — drugs, not going to school,” Makua said. “Right now, there needs to be sometime of positive safe heaven, and with this stewardship agreement.
Kumano I Ke Ala is a sponsor of the Kilohana Canoe Club, which provides youth with a better understanding of Native Hawaiian ahupua’a ecosystems and teaches them how to paddle Hawaiian outrigger canoe.
On Wednesday, the Kauai County Council unanimously approved the adopt-a-park agreement for stewardship of .27 acres of the Lucy Wright Park to allow Kumano I Ke Ala to continue its educational and recreational activities and store its outrigger canoes at the park.
“We’ve been working pretty diligently to allow this process to take place. It’s been almost 30 years,” Makua said.
In return, the organization will maintain the grounds, patrol it for vandalism, and help to restore the area.
“This isn’t just about sports. This is an opportunity to reach out to the community and keep kids on the right path,” said Mauna Kea Trask, county attorney.
There are 72 keiki in the Kilohana Canoe Club.
“It’s amazing to see 70 kids show up from the Westside, drive all the way up to Hanalei Bay, and win,” Trask said.
While there is no money set aside to build storage on the plot of land, Lenny Rapozo, director of Parks and Recreation, said they can find the money within the budget.
Makua estimates it will cost about $15,000 to build a facility.
Shirley Medeiros, a Westside resident, said she is worried about the homeless population that has flocked to the Lucy Wright Park over the years.
“It’s an eyesore. Our kids have no time to enjoy the park,” she said.
Councilman Arthur Brun said the county has failed to address the homeless problem.
“I’ve been working on the homeless issue. I’ve been working on the drug issue, and I’ve gone to Oahu for some meetings,” he said. “There’s money sitting in the state right now, but we’re not getting it because we don’t have a plan. So that’s what I’m working on.”
Councilwoman JoAnn Yukimura said the Westside is lucky to have Makua.
“To think there are 72 kids who are being influenced in the culture and values, as well as given the ability to strive for excellence in sports, wow,” she said. “That’s such a gift to our kids, and they deserve it.”