Facelift in progress: Maka’eo Walking Path
A facelift is underway on the Maka’eo walking trail at Old Kona Airport Park.
On Saturday, a small group of dedicated Friends for Fitness volunteers pulled weeds and cleared areas of the popular walking trail amid Halloween decorations and fun activities put on for the keiki.
Andrew Darcy joined Friends for Fitness in January and is by far the youngest board member of the 501 (c) (3) nonprofit run by volunteers. They currently have 73 registered volunteers who look after 43 ‘adopted’ gardens.
“We are trying to come together and bring the community here to reduce sedentary lifestyles and bring back activities,” he said.
The gardens along the walking path were in desperate need of TLC after the COVID shutdown caused weeds to proliferate. Friends for Fitness plans not only to remove weeds, but also to add features that the whole community can use.
Darcy plans to create a fitness trail with 10 equipment stations offering a greater variety of exercises.
Although the project is still in the conceptual stage, it encourages the community to take a survey on its website for feedback.
Darcy is also working to establish a “creative arts garden” that would include art and gardening focused on cognitive interaction for patients with dementia and Alzheimer’s. He hopes that local artists will donate statues or sculptures for this business.
One of the non-profit organization’s most ambitious projects is to create a lawn with a raised turf stage for community gatherings, hula shows, concerts and more. Located directly mauka from the main entrance to the path, the area was completely overgrown with weeds. Friends for Fitness president Kazumi Shurezawa, a retired landscape architect, said they need to kill all the weeds before establishing a lawn.
“We will have an elevated grass raised area of about one to one and a half feet,” he said. “But it’ll be caught or maybe caught when it’s done.”
He said they needed volunteers from the community and donated time and equipment to carry out the project. Although Old Airport Park is a county facility, the maintenance of the walking trail is done entirely by volunteers.
“It would be great if we could partner with the county,” he said. “Sometimes it’s more than we can handle.”
“We are all getting old,” Shigéawa said of the volunteers. “We need to bring in more young people like Andrew to carry the torch. “
Once the lawn is established, Shigéawa said they will need to fundraise to purchase a lawn mower to maintain the area.
Friends for Fitness began in 1992, partly funded by the state’s tobacco regulations, as a way to use the money to provide fitness and wellness in the Kona community. This year, a new board of directors was installed, committing to a renewal of the original mission.
“We want people to come out here in the sun and the fresh air,” he said. “If they want to have a garden, we can give them one.”
Shigéawa said COVID threw an adjustable wrench into their plans.
“We wanted to have a health and wellness fair here on May 1,” he said. “We were going to have various groups on health issues offering information booths and medical examinations. “
He still hopes that the event can take place next May.
While Shurezawa worked weeding, walkers of all ages circled the path.
“I hope that as they walk they will see fit to volunteer,” he said. “We hope to make it a community health-focused resource. “
Shigéawa said a donation of $ 15,000 from Burke and Karen Matsuyama had supported them over the past two years.
“Burke and Karen asked me to do the landscaping overhaul by Pine Trees. A lot of succulents come from here, ”he explained. “They were very generous in donating to Friends for Fitness. It was a win-win situation. “
He encouraged all other commercial or landscape businesses to participate when they can.
“We want this to become a well-used community resource,” said Shurezawa.
For more information, to donate or to register as a volunteer, visit friendsforfitness.org
The nonprofit is also looking for a volunteer Grant Writer, knowing that there are additional funding sources available.