Kihei resident Howie Webb said his wife, Valerie, and 3-year-old daughter, Vandela, do not go to Kalama Park at night because of an increase in criminal activity. At left is the family's 2-year-old friend McKenna Kanekoa.

Group wants to make
park safer

Maui's Kalama Park has in
recent years become a focal point
for criminal activities

KIHEI, Maui » Kihei resident Howie Webb said he won't take his family to Kalama Park after 5 p.m. on any given day because of criminal activities there at night, including shooting, vandalism and murder.

"In the last few years, it seems worse," said Webb, who has lived on Maui for 18 years.

Some Kihei residents say they are worried about the safety of Kalama Park, as vandalism and more serious crimes occur in the largest county recreational area in South Maui.

A community-based group called the Kalama Park Action Team is planning to hold a public meeting on Tuesday to discuss how it can reduce criminal activity. The meeting starts at 3:30 p.m. at the Kihei Community Center on Lipoa Street.

The 36.4-acre seaside park includes a number of recreational areas that attract a wide range of activities during the day, including a children's playground, tennis and basketball courts, a Little League baseball field, a soccer field, a skateboard ramp, an inline skating rink and a pavilion.

Residents say it's at night that problems occur, often associated with homeless people and alcohol and drug abuse.

The body of a Wailuku man stabbed to death was found near a baseball field in January. Off-duty police officers picnicking at the park were shot at last month. A Kihei Little League concession stand was maliciously burned last year.

Within the last four weeks, vandals destroyed a chain-link fence and spray-painted obscene pictures on the park's concrete and wooden skate ramps.

"It's frustrating," said Joel Parker, program director of the Maui Family YMCA. "We experience vandalism fairly frequently."

Parker, whose organization has a contract with the county to manage the skate park, said his group regularly cleans the area of beer cans and bottles, in addition to the graffiti.

Parker said he feels while it's legal to drink alcohol at Kalama Park, the drinkers don't have to do it in the skate park.

Deputy Parks Director John Buck said banning alcohol from the park might be a partial solution to the problem of criminal activity because it would discourage the homeless and people associated with illegal drug activity.

But Buck said a proposal to ban alcohol from Kalama Park would require community support, and that a ban might affect those who have parties at the pavilion.

"Sometimes you can't have the best of two worlds," Buck said.

Buck said the county might also consider installing a caretaker's house at the park and trimming the bushes to give authorities a better view of people in the park.

He said a former caretaker not only cleaned the park, but also served as a lifeguard.

Police Capt. Glenn Miyahira, whose Kihei substation is across the road from the park, said unlike several other county recreational areas, Kalama Park is open at night for a variety of activities.

Miyahira said he believes reducing criminal activity at the park will require community help.

"No one group can solve the problem. It has to be a collective effort," he said.

Jerrie Sheppard, the county community prosecutor in Kihei, said one solution is to increase the public use of the park to discourage the presence of undesirable elements.

Sheppard, who is spearheading the Tuesday meeting, said another possible solution might be to increase lighting.

Lighting is being installed at the skateboard park.

"We're going to talk about things we can do," Sheppard said.

Webb said his wife found a drug needle in a tree near the playground, and there have been numerous thefts in the park. He said he is not sure if eliminating drinking would make a difference, but he thinks improving lighting at the playground would help.

Kawika Kanekoa, another Kihei parent, said the children deserve a safe playground, and he thinks there should be an increase in police patrols in the parking lot, where there are illegal drug transactions.

"This is the only public playground in Kihei," Kanekoa said.


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