Joy, fellowship and family were the themes for an April 12 ceremony commemorating the reopening of an improved and expanded Gilbert Carvalho Park in Hilo.
Mayor Billy Kenoi and Hilo Councilman Donald Ikeda joined Carvalho family members in the blessing ceremony for the park’s new off-street parking area located mauka of the baseball field.
“If it wasn’t for him, we could never build this place because we had no money,” Councilman Ikeda said of Mayor Kenoi’s willingness to help finance the safety improvements.
Mayor Kenoi expanded on the message Pastor Renee Godoy delivered before formally blessing the recent improvements and untying a maile lei, which officially opened the new area. Joy, fellowship and family were the reasons for Thursday’s event, he said.
“Our children, regardless of how challenging the economy is, deserve safe, healthy, positive places to be,” Mayor Kenoi said.
Mayor Kenoi credited Councilman Ikeda for having the vision to improve the park and the persistence to see the project realized. He also praised the cooperation between the County Departments of Parks & Recreation, Public Works, and Environmental Management to get the project done.
Councilman Ikeda presented Ruby Carvalho, widow of Gilbert Carvalho, with a framed copy of a 1955 County Council resolution naming the park after him. Although he passed away at age 25, Gilbert Carvalho was described in the resolution as “Hawai‘i’s greatest athlete.”
The gravel parking lot, which doubles the amount of available parking, has a two-tiered design that provides for outstanding vantage spots for watching games and other park activities. Connecting the lot to the ball field is a new bridge that crosses a fresh-water spring and natural pool, adding to the park’s accessibility and ambiance.
County personnel were assisted by Hawai‘i Correctional Industries to do the initial clearing of the jungle area to assess the area, determine the best layout for motorists, and build the parking area.
For years, spectators who flock to the park to watch baseball and softball games have parked along the shoulder and grassy median of Waiānuenue Avenue. This practice has impeded ambulances and other emergency vehicles rushing to nearby Hilo Medical Center, creating a serious hazard for both park users and people needing medical treatment.
A certificate commemorating the Hawai‘i Island Portuguese Chamber of Commerce and acknowledging its efforts to perpetuate Portuguese culture was presented to Margo Aguiar, widow of Dennis Aguiar. The annual Dennis Aguiar Portuguese Day-in-the-Park is set for 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Sunday, April 15. In celebrating all things Portuguese, the festival will feature an 11 a.m. performance by the Hawai‘i County Band, genealogy booths and the serving of free Portuguese bean soup and bread at noon.
The new parking lot is part of an approximately $890,000 upgrade that includes remodeling of the gymnasium restrooms, new paved walking paths meeting federal accessibility standards, and installation of new bleachers.
Gilbert Carvalho Park features a lighted baseball field, gymnasium, pavilions and keiki playground. It attracts numerous users, including youth, adult and kupuna sports teams. The park serves as the site for softball tournaments and parties, and is home to the popular Dennis Aguiar Portuguese Day-in-the-Park Festival.