Skateboarding is popular in Hawaii, originally evolving from surfing and sharing close ties in mechanics and movement. Like most towns, Hilo has its own skateboarding community and culture, but no local place to legally skate — County law prohibits skateboarding in public places, and it is a misdemeanor offense punishable by fines and even arrest.
The Hilo Skate Plaza Coalition, a non-profit organization, is trying to give skateboarders a legal venue to pursue their passion. The coalition’s goal is to build a 25,000 square-foot recreational center and skate-park at the Afook-Chinen Civic Auditorium.
“We haven’t had a skate-park in Hilo for at least seven or eight years now. And there’s a lot more kids coming up. They’re really stoked on skating but they have no place to go,” said Steven Kainoa, a Hilo native and experienced skateboarder of 10 years.
The plaza is intended to give skateboarders a place to go, and will provide activities for all ages of the community. Plans for the facility include a recreation space with a pavilion, barbecue, playground, roller derby rink, and 2.5 acres of skate-able concrete, according to the coalition’s website, Hiloskateplaza.com. The plaza will incorporate a running and walking trail, as well as a concert stage for live music.
“It’s not just a park. It’s a community recreational center, and really one of the only places that families can go and spend the day besides the beach,” said Issa Hilweh, a local business owner and member of the Skate Plaza Coalition. “It’s going to have an enormous effect on so many different avenues, musically, culturally, and athletically. We can do large, national skate competitions there because it’s going to be a world-renown skate park that people will want to come and visit.”
Since becoming a non-profit organization, the coalition is now poised to apply for grants and continue raising funds. Raising the money for phase one – the derby-rink and roof foundations – will be the first step.
Clayton Honma, director of the Department of Parks and Recreation for the County of Hawaii, says he supports the effort to build a skatepark in Hilo and is working with members of the coalition to make the vision a reality. Funding is a major obstacle to building the park.
“They’re all behind it. They’re all looking forward to it happening. But it is going to take the community to do it. We need as much help as possible,” said Hilweh.
To complete the project, the coalition needs volunteers for fundraising, staffing events, writing grants, and marketing.
To get involved, visit the volunteer link at Hiloskateplaza.com, and contact the Department of Parks and Recreation to voice your support. Donations can be made directly through the website, or at Oasis Skateboards shop located at 794 Kilauea Ave. in Hilo. All donations are tax deductible.
The coalition meets at the Hawai’i Island Board of Realtors at 39 Waianuenue Ave. on the second Thursday of every month at 5:30 p.m.
Chris Yoakum is a Senior graduating from UH Hilo, studying Communications and History. He was born and raised in Hawaii, and enjoys music, writing, and outdoor adventures in his spare time. After college, he desires to sojourn foreign countries and write about his adventures.