Closing parks 12 hours a day is not a reasonable solution
A neighborhood board has asked the city to close parks in Ewa from 7 p.m. to 7 a.m. every day.
THE Ewa Neighborhood Board's drive to close all city parks in the region for 12 hours a day
would unreasonably shut out residents who use them legitimately.
The extreme demand also could turn the parks into zones where only those with illegal intentions gather, further yielding the public facilities to criminal elements. Rather than trying to keep everyone out, the board would do better to encourage people to play, walk, jog and otherwise make use of their parks. Their sheer numbers could do more to discourage unlawful activity.
The board is recommending that the city close seven parks in Ewa between 7 p.m. and 7 a.m. daily to discourage late-night drinking, loud music and racing that disturb nearby residents.
City parks director Lester Chang has suggested that rather than shuttering all the parks uniformly, the board consider each one individually. However, board chairman Kurt Fevella says the group wants the 12-hour closing to be consistent "to set a precedent."
Even if curfews are set, few parks can be completely closed off unless the fields, parking lots and facilities are surrounded by high fences and are regularly patrolled. Off-hour intruders could be cited, but they would first have to be caught.
With new housing developments, traffic and other urban problems, pressures in Ewa appear to have brought a home-turf issue before the board. Fevella attributes Ewa's troubles to outsiders, in particular people from Waipahu, saying the board's intent is to "take back the parks" for the Ewa community.
The board surely knows that Ewa's parks aren't exclusively for those who live nearby, but are for everyone to enjoy, just as Ewa residents have use of beaches and playgrounds outside their neighborhood.
Moreover, the closings would deprive Ewa's own community members of recreational facilities. Board member Reynaldo Rodriguez told the Star-Bulletin's Rosemarie Bernardo that youth leagues regularly play evening basketball and baseball in Ewa parks. A tennis group plays at courts from 7 to 10 p.m. at least three times a week. Fishing enthusiasts throw in lines in the evenings and surfers catch early morning waves at Oneula Beach Park.
The isolated beach park seems to have been the spark for residents' concerns because of drug use and other illicit activities there, but while curbs at Oneula might be warranted, they might not be at others.
Currently, about 60 percent of city parks have closing times, typically from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m., but others, such as some in Aiea, could be closed as well.
Extending those hours might be sensible in some cases, but blanket shutdowns that don't consider individual parks and seasonal or weekend uses aren't.