A thoroughly renovated Reed’s Bay Beach Park was officially reopened Saturday morning during a blessing ceremony that attracted about 100 park users, dignitaries and passers-by to the popular Hilo facility. Mayor Billy Kenoi joined other elected officials in welcoming people back to the Banyan Drive park, upgraded for safety and accessibility.
Comprising slightly more than four acres and located within walking distance of downtown Hilo, Reed’s Bay Beach Park offers safe access for swimmers, fishermen and boaters with authorized moorings in the bay. The park includes mature trees for shade, grassy areas for play and a protected bay for use by keiki and kupuna alike. Parking is provided at an adjacent 2.3 acre lot.
During a Hawaiian blessing ceremony, Kumu Kimo Awai told the story of a family whose young child once wandered into ocean and was at risk of drowning, when a force – a large school of small fish called ‘oama – guided the keiki safely back to shore. Today, the park continues this history of being a safe place for our keiki.
Reed’s Bay Beach Park is “a place that celebrates family and protects our children and is a pu‘uhonua, a safe haven for our families that actually protects our children from drugs, and from gangs and from violence,” Mayor Kenoi said after joining dignitaries and members of the Keaukaha community in untying the maile lei to signify the reopening of the park.
Reed’s Bay is named after William H. Reed. Born in 1814 Belfast, Ireland, Reed was a businessman who bought Reed’s Island in 1861 and built the first commercial bridge over the Wailuku River. He also created Reed’s Landing, which he used to moor boats carrying lumber for one of his businesses.
Remembering how as a child he played at the park with his parents, Mayor Kenoi thanked contractor Nan Inc., the Department of Parks and Recreation staff, members of the Reed family, and Bill Walter, CEO and president of W.H. Shipman Ltd., which was founded by Reed’s stepson.
Reed’s Bay Beach Park now features concrete walkways complete with integrated seat walls, outdoor showers, drinking fountain and landscaping. Future plans call for picnic tables and additional landscaping to be added this summer as part of an Eagle Scout project.
Leonard Bisel of Leonard Bisel and Associates designed the improvements, while Nan Inc. performed much of the work under a $690,763 contract. With the help of U.S. Sen. Daniel K. Inouye, Hawai‘i County obtained a $248,525 federal grant that was used to pay more than one-third of the contract cost, thereby reducing the financial burden on local taxpayers.
Assisting with the project were Department of Parks and Recreation personnel, who installed the showers, poured concrete footings, trimmed trees, spread sand, and performed other work.
The project represents teamwork and partnership with the federal and state governments, Parks & Recreation Director Bob Fitzgerald told audience members. He called the project “a great example of laulima – what we can all do together.”
Sen. Inouye issued a statement read by his field representative, Delbert Nishimoto. Sen. Inouye praised Mayor Kenoi and his administration for delivering projects that improve Hawai‘i County and add to the island’s beauty.
State Sen. Gilbert Kahele, state Rep. Mark Nakashima and Puna Councilman Fred Blas also each spoke at the reopening ceremony. “It’s nice to come down from Puna and see a beautiful place like this,” Councilman Blas said.
The newly renovated Reed’s Bay Beach Park continues a vision then-Gov. John Burns started for the Banyan Drive area in 1969, Sen. Kahele said. “Banyan Drive is a wonderful place. I played here as a child, and I enjoyed the ocean.”
Mayor Kenoi announced that a second phase improvements at Reed’s Bay Beach Park, to include a comfort station, will start in August, to avoid impacting summer use of the park, and be finished by year’s end.
For safety reasons, the sand along the park’s shoreline is no longer accessible to motor vehicles, although boat owners with approved moorings in the bay may continue to launch and retrieve their vessels.
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