DENNIS ODA / DODA@STARBULLETIN.COM
The city will close Thomas Square for four days beginning Aug. 20 for cleanup and repairs. Rob A. Fortune, left, Matthew G. Howard and Randi Magnusson were among those at the park yesterday. Fortune and Magnusson "exist" there, according to Fortune. Howard used to be homeless, but now lives in Makiki and goes to the park to socialize. CLICK FOR LARGE
Thomas Square to close for cleanup
Homeless to be pushed out
STORY SUMMARY »
The city will conduct an extensive cleanup of Thomas Square at the end of the month that will mean the homeless will have to find another place to live.
The park near the Honolulu Academy of Arts and across from the Neal Blaisdell Concert Hall will be closed from midnight Aug. 20 until 3 p.m. Aug. 24 while workers clean as well as renovate and repair picnic tables, benches, the irrigation system, the park fountain and comfort stations. Tree pruning, landscape work and installation of additional lighting also will be done.
Upon completion of the cleanup, the city close Thomas Square nightly from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m.
FULL STORY »
The city is gearing up to do another extensive park cleanup that will force the homeless at Thomas Square to relocate.
Thomas Square will be closed from midnight Monday, Aug. 20, to 3 p.m. Friday, Aug. 24, to allow workers to clean up the park and make repairs and renovations.
Work will include cleaning, painting and installation of tile flooring in restrooms; painting of picnic tables and benches; landscape maintenance; tree pruning; repairing irrigation systems and the park foundation; and installation of additional lighting.
Starting Aug. 24, upon completion of the cleanup, the city will close the park from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m.
The city previously administered cleanups at other parks such as Maili Beach Park, Pokai Bay Beach Park, Pupukea Beach Park, Mokuleia Beach Park and Queen's Surf Beach Park.
Thomas Square is one of the oldest community parks in Honolulu, said Les Chang, director of the Department of Parks and Recreation. "It's very special in a sense," Chang said. "People love to walk through it."
City officials have heard community concerns about safety, noise, illegal activity, drinking and drug use. Like at other parks, homelessness also is an issue at Thomas Square.
The park, known for its enormous banyan trees, was a popular spot for craft fairs held by the Pacific Handcrafters Guild for the past 32 years. Craft fairs held by guild members are being held at Kakaako Waterfront Park this year after members wanted to try a different location for no particular reason.
Festival coordinator Uilani Mokiao said Thomas Square was an ideal place to hold events because of the shade the large banyan trees provide for attendees and vendors.
Mokiao noted the homeless problem at Thomas Square, but said homelessness also exists at Kakaako Waterfront Park. "The homeless problem is all over," she said.
Notices were placed at the restrooms at Thomas Square to inform park users of the cleanup and to remove all property, personal belongings and camping gear.
Frances Faria, 55, said she has lived at the park on and off for the past decade. Faria said she is aware of the cleanup and is not worried about it. Faria said she is currently receiving help from outreach providers to find a home in the downtown area.
"I don't want to live like this. I put myself here," Faria said.
John Steelquist, chairman of the Makiki-Lower Punchbowl-Tantalus Neighborhood Board, said concerns of drug use, assaults and vandalism were raised over the past several years.
But issues regarding the park have not been considered a major concern among residents. "It's an issue, but not that high on the list," Steelquist said, adding that parking is the prime concern for area residents.
Thomas Square was conceived in 1843 as the first public park on Oahu by Adm. Richard D. Thomas, its namesake. On July 31, 1843, Thomas restored the Hawaiian flag at Kulaokahua, known today as Thomas Square, after he disapproved of a five-month British rule of the Hawaiian kingdom.
Imaikalani Kalahele, 61, who was celebrating Ka La Hoihoi Ea or Sovereignty Restoration Day at the park yesterday, said: "It was a lot safer before. It's really kind of seedy now.
"It's about time," Kalahele said about the planned cleanup.
Mayor, officials to join volunteers
Mayor Mufi Hannemann and his administration will participate in cleanups Saturday at beach parks on the North Shore.
Volunteers will meet at 7:45 a.m. at Haleiwa Alii Beach Park on the Mokuleia side of the Haleiwa Boat Harbor. Hannemann and other city officials plan to focus on Haleiwa Alii Beach Park and Kaiaka Beach Park.
"Parks are an important part of our Oahu, our home," Hannemann said in a news release. "We all want them to be accessible, clean and well-kept, to reflect the beauty of our island and our responsibility as stewards of these public facilities."
Those interested in participating in the cleanup may go to the tent that will be set up at the Haleiwa Alii Beach Park by 8 a.m. Saturday, or call the Department of Parks and Recreation at 692-5725.