HERE ON THE BIG ISLAND
By Kelly Moran
“New” Bus Terminal and More at Mo’oheau Park
When the Hawaii County Bandstand got some minor improvements a few months ago, it merely set the stage for a larger project next door. Now the bus terminal has been thoroughly renovated, and there’s more work in the offing to improve Mo’oheau Park on the Hilo bayfront, across from the Farmers’ Market.
The bus terminal had been showing its age for years, but steadily increasing patronage was overtaxing it. Besides serving many of the County’s Hele On bus routes, it’s a drop-off/pickup point for tour vehicles. The Hilo Information Center is in the middle of the terminal; that’s where the Downtown Improvement Association (DIA) provides bus schedules and informative maps and pamphlets about the Big Island. The terminal also has the only public restrooms in the vicinity, and they were certainly showing their age, too! So improvements were made to the curbs and sidewalks, the roof, the restrooms, the seating areas and the Information Center. The $664,000 upgrade also included mobility enhancements, so the entire facility is now in ADA compliance.
The DIA just produced its annual Chinese New Year festival close by, in the park – a festival that had traditionally been held in Kalakaua Park, a few blocks away. But it was moved to Mo’oheau Park this year because, as DIA Executive Director Alice Moon said: “We have more space here! We could accommodate only 21 vendors in Kalakaua Park. This year we had had 35 vendors, and we still have room for more. We also have a DIA office here. And of course, the bus terminal is here, and it has new bathrooms.
“But there’s another reason for the move,” she added. “Just as we did in Kalakaua Park, we brought a ‘positive’ activity to what had been a run-down park that attracted ‘problem people’ with bad behavior – a place where you just didn’t want to go. Now you want to go there! I have to say that these free community events cost the DIA money – and we’re still accepting donations (at www.downtownhilo.com) to help cover the Chinese New Year festival. But events like that are proven to make our parks better places, for the benefit of everyone in Hilo.”
Next up for Mo’oheau Park is another much-needed improvement. If you have ever driven around and around the parking lot there, searching for an empty slot, especially on a Wednesday or Saturday – the biggest Farmers’ Market days – you will appreciate this change. Between now and the start of Merrie Monarch Week, on March 31, the grassy medians in the lot between the bus terminal and Haili St. will be altered or removed – their trees will be replanted at the Panaewa Zoo – and the lines will be repainted, yielding 40 more stalls. (The lot between Haili and Kalakaua St. will get a similar treatment, starting in April.)
There is open space in Mo’oheau Park, notably the big fields used for soccer and football practice, where a few small fairs are also set up during the course of the year. But Hilo has no shortage of green parkland: the whole bayfront between Ponahawai and Manono Streets, all the way up mauka to the County and State Buildings, was turned into open space after the devastation wrought by the 20th century’s two giant tsunamis. So Mo’oheau Park is not needed as (nor is it intended to be) a green oasis. Rather, it serves as a reminder that some city parks can also be much-needed urban amenities: in this case, a utilitarian bus terminal, a clean fairground, a vintage bandstand and, yes, a big parking lot.