By Dennis Oda, Star-Bulletin
Chelsea Park, 8, and 9-year-old sister Cassie, left, walk
their dogs over the landslide area as their grandmother,
Carol Azama, waters vegetables she planted to improve
the site. Her grandson, Casey Park, 2, keeps her
company. Azama pays the tab and gives vegetables away.
A park growsBy Rod Ohira
in Palolo on land
NOBODY cared much about the steep, grassy area on Waiomao Road in upper Palolo Valley.
Carol Azama changed that.
The land had been vacant since 1958, when about 20 families living on both sides of Waiomao Road below a former quarry were displaced by a major landslide. The city eventually bought the land from the residents.
It was called a park, but the city for years did little more than cut tall California grass there.
Azama moved into her home at 2339 Waiomao Road five years ago after retiring as special projects coordinator for customer operations at GTE Hawaiian Tel, where she worked for 32 years.
Now she spends up to 40 hours a week caring for the parcel of land.
Star-Bulletin file photo
The city bought homes ruined by a 1958 landslide,
called the site a park, then paid it scant attention.
Azama didn't care about the park until the city started spraying weed killer a couple of years ago to control the growth of the tall grass.
"I was concerned the poison was blowing into the kitchen, so I started to do yard work just to keep it clear," she said. "In the beginning, I hired people to keep it clean, but it got expensive."
With the help of her neighbor, Yosei Yonamine, Azama began clearing away more and more of the California grass on the slope, replacing the weeds with plants.
"Me and her are both retired so we just try to keep the place clean so it won't be a hazard," Yonamine said.
Since accepting the city's offer to adopt the park, Azama has spent over $2,000 of her own money on plants, fertilizer and equipment.
That doesn't include her water bill.
"I don't mind doing it for the community," said Azama, whose youngest daughter, Melanie, was a star basketball player at Iolani School and the University of Hawaii.
"It's my payback. The city's park programs did a lot for my four children after I got divorced. Melanie, my youngest, was 7 years old, and the Boys and Girls Club of Honolulu did a lot for her for $1 a year.
"Now, I can give something back to the community."
The city installed an automatic sprinkler system, but it has been broken for a long time, Azama said.
She believes a turn-on sprinkler is more practical because of the rainfall in the area. Meanwhile, she waters the land and pays the tab.
Azama has planted everything at the park from a banyan tree, the only thing she had from her late parents' nursery, to vegetables and flowers.
"We give away the eggplants and vegetables to anyone who wants them," she said.
"A lot of my neighbors are giving me plants now, so I don't have to buy any more."
Florist Mel Chin of Mel's Creations has donated many of the trees at the park.
Azama, who grew up on a farm in Kaneohe, never liked gardening or yardwork until now.
"I'm starting to enjoy watching things grow," she said.
Azama and Yonamine work in the park daily. Other neighbors, like Henry Chong and Claire Kaneshiro, also have been devoting time regularly.
Do you have a people story for Rod Ohira? Call 525-8640.