By Melisa Paterson
Photos by Dennis Fujimoto
Discovery Island Playground at Anaina Hou Community Park debuts this fall, and the public is invited to pitch in and help this weekend.
A vision five years in the making is about to become reality on the 30-acre Anaina Hou Community Park campus in Kīlauea. After 18 months of fundraising efforts, ground has finally been broken for its 17,000-square-foot Discovery Island Playground. Construction vehicles are moving into place, and staff and community members will be stepping into high gear for the public opening in September.
Overseeing the development is project manager Bill Chase of On Center Construction. Hard hat in place, he pulls up early one morning in a well-worn pickup truck to examine the progress before meeting with Anaina Hou Community Park committee chairman Frank Rothschild and executive director Thomas Daubert. All three emphasize their gratitude for the continued support from businesses and individuals that have enabled the project to move forward on schedule. R. Hurst Excavation, Kaiwa Construction and Shioi Construction will be on hand for the construction phase, and Bank of Hawai‘i, First Hawaiian Bank and Kaua‘i North Shore Lions Club have graciously committed volunteer hours to the project. However, much more is still needed before the playground opens to the public.
Anaina Hou is currently seeking volunteers to help with the build Aug. 15-19. All are welcome, and no experience is necessary. Lunch, snacks and childcare will be provided. The project also requires the use of tools and heavy equipment, and local food purveyors to feed volunteers.
“We certainly couldn’t afford to build this playground without volunteers,” adds Daubert. “We absolutely need the love, and the energy, and the time commitment of our (island community). We are hopeful that, for a project like this, families of young ones will come here and participate, volunteering to know that their sweat equity is creating this space for their kids and their grandkids, and to know that they’ve had a hand in it. I think this will create a lot of love and support for a community to know that they came together to make this possible.”
The monumental task of designing and constructing an environmentally friendly, culturally significant education playground began years ago in collaboration with Leathers & Associates, the team that helped create Kamalani Playground on Kaua‘i’s Eastside.
The majority of Anaina Hou’s current equipment is made from recycled milk jugs to accommodate the North Shore’s wet climate and help prevent deterioration over time. The first playground structure put in place — an authentic replica hale made from local trees — was completed last fall. The hale will be connected by a bridge to the larger playground area.
The playground itself will represent a well-thought-out, thematic story of Kaua‘i. Each piece of equipment will focus on an important part of the island’s history. It’ll offer keiki an exciting, exploratory adventure through time — beginning with a volcano representing the geology of how Kaua‘i was formed, to a double canoe showcasing the voyaging history of early Polynesians, to the moku and ahupua‘a system by which they lived, and then to the plantation days that includes a train car honoring the island’s first locomotive in Kīlauea. There will also be an educational storyboard accompanying each piece of playground equipment.
In Hawaiian, Anaina Hou means “a new gathering space,” and Daubert explains the significance behind this project as it fits into the over-arching mission.
“All 30 acres of the Anaina Hou campus were generously gifted to us by the late Bill Porter and his wife Joan, and were meant to be a space to bring the community together,” he says. “They recognized that this is an amazing, beautiful (island), but other than the beaches, there’s not a lot of (free) spaces and facilities that allow families to enjoy time together. Hopefully it becomes a really good destination for community members.”
In addition, nonprofit Anaina Hou gives the community access to its Porter Pavilion, a flexible events venue that stages concerts, movies and events, and is available to rent for private functions. Also part of its offerings are the Mini Golf & Gardens, a cafÃ© and food court with covered dining patio, a twice-a-week farmers market, the monthly Kīlauea Night Market and many more recurring events.
Anaina Hou Community Park also houses a small playground adjacent to two skate ramps (Discovery Island Playground will be located in a different area), a gift shop, and public access to the 4.5-mile Wai Koa Loop Trail and historic Stone Dam (currently closed due to storm damage).
For more information or to volunteer, visit anainahou.org or call volunteer coordinator Sue Boynton at 635-6056.
In addition, those wanting to donate can purchase personalized tiles for $60. These ‘ohana tiles will become part of the design at the playground facilities.