CINDY ELLEN RUSSELL / CRUSSELL@STARBULLETIN.COM
The Ewa Neighborhood Board is seeking to close city parks in Ewa and Ewa Beach for 12 hours, from 7 p.m. to 7 a.m., but some park-goers are requesting later closing times. David Palmiera, 12, practiced hitting with his Little League team The Royals at Oneula Beach Park on Thursday evening. CLICK FOR LARGE
Some seeking nightly Leeward park closures
Many Ewa residents protest a plan to shut parks 12 hours nightly
Ewa Beach resident James Jackson enjoys fishing late into the evening at Oneula Beach Park, where there are miles of aqua-colored waters and a picturesque view of Diamond Head.
But Jackson and others are concerned that the time to fish and relax at the beach with his friends will soon be cut short.
Proposed Ewa park closures hit resistance
A proposal to close all parks in Ewa from 7 p.m. to 7 a.m. nightly is drawing criticism from park users.
But the Ewa Neighborhood Board says it's fed up with illegal activity like drinking and drag racing in many parks at night.
Still, board chairman Kurt Fevella said the board is considering adjusting the recommendation and will take written testimony.
The city suggested the board look at each park individually instead of recommending a blanket nightly closure of all parks.
The Ewa Neighborhood Board has recommended the city close Oneula Beach Park and other parks in the Ewa region from 7 p.m. to 7 a.m.
The proposed night closures angered a large crowd of residents who showed up last month after the board voted 8-1 in February to recommend all city parks in Ewa and Ewa Beach be closed due to community concerns about illegal activity, including late-night drinking, drug use and drag racing.
Since last month's meeting, Lester Chang, director of the city Department of Parks and Recreation, suggested that board members look at each park individually instead of taking a blanket approach. Some residents want shorter closure hours for some parks, while some residents want longer closure hours for other parks, he said.
Board Chairman Kurt Fevella said the board will consider adjusting the board's recommendations.
Written testimony will be accepted by the board's Parks and Recreation Committee, which meets at 7 p.m. May 3 at Asing Park.
Recommendations made by the board will be sent to the Board of Parks and Recreation. Chang will make the final decision on the parks' closure hours.
Typically, the standard time for city park closures is between 10 p.m. and 5 a.m. About 60 percent of all Oahu parks have some closure hours in place, Chang said.
Fevella said the board wanted to let those who "abuse the parks" know that the Ewa community is not going to put up with it anymore.
"We wanted to unify the parks to set a precedent that we are going to take back the parks for those who abuse parks," he said.
Police respond to complaints of late-night drinking and loud music blaring at night at Oneula Beach Park, also known as Hau Bush, and Ewa Beach Community Park, said Sgt. Edgar Namoca of the Ewa-Ewa Beach Weed and Seed Detail.
Meanwhile, community members speaking for elderly residents living near a few parks inquired why other parks in the Ewa region -- such as Geiger Community Park, Ewa Mahiko District Park and Asing Community Park -- weren't being considered.
After Kapolei Parkway was connected to Renton Road as part of the Kapolei Parkway extension project, Fevella said the board has received complaints about late-night drinking and vandalism at Geiger and Ewa Mahiko.
Condoms also would be found on sliding boards and on the basketball court at Puuloa Park and Asing Park.
Fevella, who conducts regular night patrols of area parks, said most people who hang out at the parks late at night are not from the Ewa area. Many are from Waipahu and do not go to parks in their neighborhood because it's not safe, he added.
Not all board members agreed with the 12-hour park closures.
Board member Reynaldo Rodriguez said it will affect youth involved in sports-related leagues for basketball, baseball and tennis.
At least three nights a week, the Ewa Beach Community Tennis Association uses Ewa Beach Community Park from 7 to 10 p.m., said Rodriguez, a former president of the tennis association. "It's not appropriate for the park to be closed early," he said, adding that he would support a 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. closure.
Jackson, 69, who at least three times a week enjoys fishing at Oneula Beach Park until 8 p.m., says he supports late-night park closures, just not too early. "I would support if they closed it at 9 p.m.," he said.
He said he has seen teenagers drinking alcohol and throwing beer bottles in the parking lot at night.
Surfer Brent Arellano, 28, of Ewa Beach, who enjoys surfing in the mornings at Oneula Beach Park, said he wants the parks reopened before 7 a.m. "Usually I come at 6:45 a.m., sometimes earlier," Arellano said.
"I can see 9 p.m. to 6 a.m.," he added. "7 to 7, that's a little too much."
Waianae, Aiea also want parks closed
The Waianae Neighborhood Board's Parks and Recreation Committee is seeking closures for parks along the Waianae Coast after the city implemented permanent night closures at Maili Beach Park.
The committee will look at closing six more city parks, all of which are considered "high-crime areas," between 10 p.m. and 5 a.m.
Parks and their parking lots under consideration are Waianae District Park and Pililaau Community Park. Closures for the parking lots at Kahe Point Beach Park, Surfers Beach Park, Nanikai Beach Park and Forac Beach Park, also known as Zablan Beach Park, are also being sought.
The committee will talk about the closures at a 7 p.m. meeting Thursday at the Waianae Neighborhood Community Center.
The parks board members and the city Department of Parks and Recreation want to focus on cleanups and wiping out illegal activity, said board chairwoman Patty Teruya.
The homeless at these parks also remain a concern among committee members, who will discuss relocation possibilities, Teruya said.
Residents have complained about illegal activities that include alcohol use, fights, prostitution, drug use and loud music at the parks. Some gatherings at the parks don't stop until around 4 a.m., Teruya said.
Some of the parks are near homes, making many residents feel unsafe, she added.
Some residents said they have seen a big improvement at Maili Beach Park since the city resumed its cleanup there last month. City officials waited until the state opened its homeless shelter, Paiolu Kaiaulu, in the beginning of March to continue their cleanup.
A majority of the homeless who lived at Maili moved to the shelter while some are believed to have relocated to other beach parks along the coastline.
Trees and picnic tables at Maili Beach once obscured by tents occupied by many of the homeless are now visible, Teruya said. And youth soccer and baseball teams are practicing there, she added.
Several parks in the Aiea community are also being considered for closure from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. They include: Halawa District Park, Malealapa Neighborhood Park, Newtown Neighborhood Park, Waimalu Neighborhood Park, Kaahele Neighborhood Park, Nahele Neighborhood Park and Kilinoe Neighborhood Park.
Problems with the homeless, graffiti and drugs prompted the proposal for park closure hours, said Bill Clark, chairman of the Aiea Neighborhood Board.