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County holds groundbreaking for long-awaited West Maui Skate Park

By Staff | Jun 30, 2011

Shovels at the ready to make the groundbreaking of the West Maui Skate Park a reality are (from left): Zeke Kalua, executive assistant to Mayor Alan Arakawa; Robert Close, president of BCP Construction of Hawaii Inc.; John Buck, executive assistant to Mayor Arakawa; County Councilwomen Gladys Baisa and Elle Cochran; Mayor Arakawa; County Councilmen Don Couch, Mike Victorino and Mike White; and Patrick Matsui, deputy director of the county Parks Department. Photo by Tom Blackburn-Rodriguez.

LAHAINA — According to the movie “Field of Dreams,” “If you build it, they will come.” And according to county officials, by November or December of this year, the West Maui Skate Park will finally be completed — possibly an early Christmas present to West Maui skateboarders and their tireless supporters.

When that day arrives, Lahaina will have a safe — and legal — place for kids to practice vert skating, front sides, backsides, “Fakies,” “Pop Shuvits,” “Kickflips” and other tricks.

Ground was broken for the long-awaited project on Monday, June 20, at the site behind Lahaina Aquatic Center.

As children and their families at the pool splashed in the 80-degree heat of the day before the summer solstice, more than 50 people gathered in the shade of a county Parks Department tent and saw the culmination of a dream that had its origins in 1994, when then-County Councilman and current Mayor Alan Arakawa was serving his first term on the council.

“When I first got on the County Council in 1994, I was chairman of the Parks Committee. At that point, we had no skate parks,” said Arakawa in an interview before the groundbreaking ceremonies began.

The new West Maui Skate Park may be ready for riders by Christmas. The $1.3 million park will feature street areas for all levels, a “flow bowl” for beginner and novice skaters, pool with coping and advanced bowl for experienced skaters.

“The slab for the old quonset hut in Kahului was being used by some kids to do skateboarding, and from that we created the first skateboard park. And as chairman of the committee, we went around the county and we started looking at various other communities to work on skateboard parks,” he said.

“Over the years, we have been trying to develop skateboard parks in virtually all of the communities to give the kids another activity. This is just an ongoing part of that process,” he added.

Design work for the skate park began in 2007. The park is expected to cost $1.3 million and consist of 15,000 square feet of skateboarding space.

Designed by Grindline Skateparks Inc., the park will feature street areas for all levels, a “flow bowl” for beginner and novice skaters, pool with coping and advanced bowl for experienced skaters, and an island with grass, trees and benches inside the cement park.

According to Robert Close, president of BCP Construction and the prime contractor for the project, if all goes as planned, construction will take 180 days.

Funding for the park is a combination of county capital improvement funds and a federal grant from the National Park Service Land and Water Conservation Fund.

First term County Councilwoman Elle Cochran, who represents West Maui, spoke at the ceremony and thanked county officials that served before her, including recently married former Councilwoman Jo Anne Johnson Winer and former Mayor Charmaine Tavares, for continuing to work on the project and move it forward during their tenure.

“I’m really excited,” she said. “Where was this when I was growing up?”

Cochran saw the project as a message from the county that, “We care about our youth and want to make sure they have an opportunity to enjoy an active, healthy lifestyle.”

In her remarks, Cochran noted the length of time that it took from conception to finally getting the skate park underway.

“It’s ridiculous that it takes this long, from idea to groundbreaking,” she said, while also acknowledging that the challenge is always money.

In addition to Cochran, council members attending the groundbreaking — which opened with a blessing by Pastor Laki Ka’ahumanu — were Gladys Baisa, Don Couch, Mike White and Mike Victorino.

Also attending were Pam English and Joe Pluta of the West Maui Taxpayers Association, a strong supporter of a skate park in Lahaina.