Kilauea playground dedication is on

  • Dennis Fujimoto / The Garden Island

    A wall just inside the welcoming sign and ahead of the new Nancy’s Hale awaits sculptures from local artists at the Anaina Hou playground in Kilauea Thursday.

  • Dennis Fujimoto / The Garden Island

    A toddler play area is set adjacent to the new Nancy’s Hale at the Anaina Hou playground in Kilauea Thursday.

  • Dennis Fujimoto / The Garden Island

    The volcano was “erupting” kids shortly after it opened, said Bill Chase, the Anaina Hou playground project supervisor, Thursday in Kilauea.

  • Dennis Fujimoto / The Garden Island

    The Thursday afternoon sun pierces the sky above the sign welcoming people to the Anaina Hou playground in Kilauea.

  • Dennis Fujimoto / The Garden Island

    Bill Chase, project supervisor for the Anaina Hou playground, watches to see that no one parks on the newly-laid sod fronting the Kilauea layout Thursday.

Celebrate the grand opening of Anaina Hou Community Park’s new playground on Saturday.

A volcano, double-hull canoe, sugar cane train and oodles of slides, swings and other unique climbing structures, are among the many activities keiki will formally get to indulge in at the North Shore nonprofit in Kilauea after this weekend.

“It’s large, clean and filled with hours and hours of creative adventures waiting to be discovered—whether scaling an active volcano or journeying to faraway lands in the canoe,” said Jill W. Lowry, executive director of Anaina Hou Community Park (AHCP). “It is a place to run wild with friends and imagine all sorts of fun things.”

What sets this amply sized playground apart besides its “place-based” features and a “tiny tot” area, is the fact that it’s made out of more than 700,000 recycled plastic milk jugs, Lowry said.

“Anaina Hou is committed to making the necessary changes to decrease our carbon footprint and do our part in creating sustainability for Kauai,” Lowry said. “Recycling is critical, but what is also critical is to use the products made from recyclable materials. If we do not start to incorporate more repurposed products into our consumerism, recycling becomes moot.”

The playground also boasts wall art with individual tiles made by local artists that are decorated with seabirds, fish and native plants.

“It is also one of the most beautiful playgrounds on Kauai,” Lowry said.

The playground started as a concept about 9 years ago. Part of the inspiration came from the late Bill Porter, who, along with his wife, Joan, founded AHCP. He was a businessman who developed E-Trade but he was also a visionary and philanthropist.

After purchasing land in Kilauea in 2006, the Porters began envisioning how they could use it to benefit the community. Three years of planning and numerous meetings with the Kilauea Neighborhood Association later, Anaina Hou, “a new gathering,” was born.

By 2009, construction on phase one of the project began.

Now, residents and visitors have access to an assortment of activities, including an 18-hole miniature golf course that winds through botanical gardens that share the vegetative history of the Hawaiian Islands.

Joan Porter continues to serve on the nonprofit’s board. But since her husband’s passing, has begun to entrust the majority of operations to professionals like Lowry whose role has been to see existing projects, like the playground, come to fruition.

“There have been many amazing, kind-hearted and generous people who have been a part of the project from its inception, and many who have joined along the way,” she said. “I have had the honor and pleasure of watching it coalesce these last months into the beautiful oasis that will be introduced at Saturday’s grand opening. “

Another upcoming project at AHCP will be its inaugural “Anaina Hou Social Awareness Film Festival” in February 2020. The films will focus on indigenous cultures “and/or” immigration, Lowry said.

“Socio-politically, our world is in a dangerous place. Hate crimes and other forms of racism, persecution and intolerance have soared,” she said. “While living in the middle of an ocean does buffer us from the worst-of-the-worst, we do not escape it entirely. We can all do better, be more empathetic; be dedicated to finding common ground and understanding.”

The playground’s opening is a perfect opportunity to develop more common ground and connect to members of the community. The event starts at 3 p.m. with a ribbon-cutting ceremony and pule, followed by a tour of the park. Festivities will conclude at 5 p.m. at the Porter Pavilion after a presentation and potluck.

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Coco Zickos, county reporter, can be reached at 245-0424 or czickos@thegardenisland.com.

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