LIHUE — Kalena Park could receive some extra love soon.
A revitalization plan for the park is underway and officials from around the island met on Tuesday to discuss design concepts. The general idea is to spruce up the Lihue park and have a multi-purpose, open space area where community members of all ages can safely recreate.
The idea was first conceptualized more than two years ago when Kalena Park Community Action Group, consisting of residents from all walks of life, was established. The group, however, recognized the need to recruit youth as part of the project, said Bev Brody of Get Fit Kauai.
They partnered with the Lihue Boys and Girls Club, as well as Get Fit Kauai and the County of Kauai Planning Department, and were subsequently sponsored by Georgia Tech’s Youth Education and Advocacy for Health program. Since Lihue’s town core was already in the midst of revitalization, Kalena Park became an ideal site for such a program to take place.
In 2018, the county council approved a grant of $80,000 to create a park masterplan. Dr. David Barth, a registered landscape architect, who is certified in planning, designing and implementing recreational public spaces, was hired to come up with some design concepts. Surveys were sent out to more than 100 people on Kauai, and focus groups were held with organizations and businesses in the area, such as the Lihue Boys and Girls Club and Kaniko‘o senior housing.
“There are all kinds of things that redevelopment can do for the community,” said Barth, who took all the data and determined the commonalities of what people wanted.
It wasn’t an easy task to incorporate a number of different elements, including tennis, basketball and picnic areas, into the park’s small, 1/3-acre space, Barth said. But he was able to do so with his team and presented five of their best design concepts that supported as many desires of the community as possible.
Plans even integrated other factors like cultural activities, such as a place to play konane and informational signage.
Barth also presented the idea that Kalena Park is not just a stand-alone place but is part of a much bigger system comprising of other parks and public realms he called the “Lihue Loop.” In fact, he said that creating a walkable path where Kalena Park serves as a “trailhead” connecting to places like the Lihue Civic Center, could give the community more opportunities for health and fitness.
When he first accepted the project, Barth said he thought it was just a “neat, simple, little park,” but the further he dug, the more he realized how much Kalena Park had to offer. But that doesn’t mean there won’t be obstacles to overcome. Barth discussed concerns related to how the park currently “bad behavior” and came up with possible solutions to address it.
“Crime Prevention through Environmental Design” is an approach that creates more visibility, lighting and upgraded facilities that aren’t so tucked away like the bathrooms are now.
Another issue tackled at Tuesday’s meeting was parking. Spots surrounding the park are often filled, especially since people need them to get to businesses in the area. Ideas were thrown around, including providing extra parking at another site within walking distance, to combat the problem.
Lori Koga, who hosts pickleball games at the park and is a sales manager of the nearby business, M. Tanaka Store, also expressed concern about moving the bathrooms and said it could be a “nightmare” to re-route the plumbing system.
But Barth said those are items that would continue to be addressed as the process proceeds through its development stages. He added that it would be best to suspend worries about money for the time being.
“Because a compelling vision will attract the money,” he said.
“Let’s design the park of our dreams,” she said.