Prior to 1992, the town of Kamuela (pop. 9,212), in the North Kohala region of the Big Island of Hawaii, had one community park, with a small playground in its corner. An outing at the park meant bringing the kids to play on the one slide, two swings, monkey bars, or the jungle gym, all of painted galvanized-metal construction: sturdy, not very interesting, fun for a little while then done.
Since 1992, in the same park and in the same corner, Anuenue Playground has provided countless hours of creative fun, imaginative play, and physical challenge for the children of residents and visitors alike. The change came because a group of dedicated community members came together to make something better for their town, and the result was a community-designed, volunteer-built, donor-funded playground that became, and still is, a Kamuela landmark. The movement that became a playground gathered people together in a way that had not happened before and has not happened since: an entire town, and beyond, contributing, working, sharing in the common goal of building a unique and fabulous play area for the keiki. Months of meticulous planning and organization ultimately culminated in a five-day fully-volunteered construction effort overseen by the design consultants and the coordinating committee. When it was done, the ribbon was cut and the kids poured into and all over the structure, and the whole town had a celebration party. It was a life affirming experience, and those who were there have warm memories of that special time.
It has been 23 years, our town and the children have grown, and so has the playground aged. Many who grew up playing at Anuenue now bring their own children to play, but some features have broken or been removed over time, and the overall structure does not meet current regulatory building codes. Requests for county repairs resulted in the determination that such costs would be too high for the County's budget priorities, and when the playground reached the level at which it was no longer considered safe it would be removed and not replaced. As a town-center gathering place for over 20 years, the removal of Anuenue Playground would be a tremendous loss for our keiki and families. It is the picnic-place, the meet-you-there-place, the play-group-place, the go-there-after-school-place, the dad's-got-the-kids-place, the siblings-don't-want-to-watch-the-soccer-game-place -- the Everything to Everybody Anuenue is Here for You place. We cannot lose it; we have to save it.
WHO WE ARE
In 2013 a very small group of people started a very small movement to emulate the great work done by the coordinating folks back in 1992. The original idea to fix and replace as needed evolved over three years to a plan to re-build much of the structure, a consequence of engineer recommendations, current regulations, and the desire to create something as amazing today as the original structure seemed 23 years ago: an invigorating, updated design, adhering to county code and ADA-compliant. As with the first construction, the county is offering support by allowing our proposal to move forward, but without providing significant fundingfor the construction. The county has, however, committed to taking on the maintenance of the playground after it is built.
Friends of Anuenue Playground has itself evolved. We are now a coordinating committee with a small board and fundraiser team, and an ever-growing list of outreach members. In 2014, Friends partnered with Play By Design LLC, a company specializing in community-built playgrounds, and with gathered input we developed a creative and exciting layout. The continuity of Anuenue is important to our community, and the new plan honors the original design, enhancing it with accessible components and body and mind-stretching play features. It raises the playground to the next level (while conforming to current policies and standards) to meet the needs of our growing town and population, and the many visitors who drive through Waimea. It will continue to be a welcomed stop for families making the long drive between East and West Hawaii.
As a volunteer-built project, there will be no labor costs. Estimated costs for construction materials, supplies and shipping run to $488,000; approximately 1/3 of that cost is for the safety surfacing now mandated for all playgrounds. This year we initiated our Fundraiser Drive, highlighted by a series of Giving Levels designed to excite and encourage donor participation. Our goal is to raise the necessary funds by the end of 2016 and rebuild the playground in the spring of 2017. An important feature of the 1992 build was the feeling of ownership our community had through the raising of funds and the literal raising of the playground. That model is as important today as it was then, but while there is already a groundswell of local support, the amount required is a lot for a small town. To reach our goal we must appeal to local businesses (in-kind donations, grants and corporate funding), local foundations and granting organizations, and the families and friends in our community. Such support will be the wave that helps carry us to our destination - Anuenue Playground: rescued, re-envisioned, revitalized, ready to entertain and enrich keiki for many more years to come.
We are honored to have Friends of the Future, a local 501(c)3 organization, as fiscal sponsor and providing administrative support. All donations are tax-deductible to the extent allowable by law. Checks should be made out to Friends of the Future with “Anuenue Playground” in the memo and mailed to Anuenue Playground, c/o Michele Chavez-Pardini, PO Box 2538, Kamuela, HI 96743. Donations can also be made online from our website (www.anuenueplayground.org). For questions, please contact Michele Chavez-Pardini at (808) 960-6392.