Prior to 1954 when the first residents of the Niu Valley subdivision moved into their new homes, Kalaniana‘ole Highway was a three lane road (one lane was for turning) leading to pig and cattle farms and fishponds. Niu Valley used to be a dairy farm and back then was considered the “country.”
Niu Valley Middle School first opened its doors in 1955 with just a seventh grade and a staff of only six members. Since then, it has grown from one building to 15 and now accommodates almost 800 students in grades sixth, seventh and eighth. Niu Valley Middle School is the only middle school in the Kaiser Complex (pop. 30,670). The City and County of Honolulu’s policy was to install playground equipment targeting populations close to elementary schools, so Niu Valley was never considered for a playground unlike every other East Honolulu community.
Two decades later, sometime in the late 70s, the City installed two (unlit) tennis courts in Niu Valley Park. Prior to this time, the only activities that occurred in the Park were children climbing boulders and plumeria trees and riding their bikes down the steep slope at breakneck speeds and being injured.
Two decades after this, in the late 1990s, the City drew up plans to install a comfort station in Niu Valley Park. The community was never asked if they wanted a comfort station, and these plans were confusing to residents because they had comfort stations in their own homes and did not want to attract the homeless to the Park. Kalaniana‘ole Highway is widened to a six lane speedway/highway where pedestrians, bikers and drivers are killed on a regular basis.
A decade later, knowing that playground equipment would provide their children with a safe place to play, Niu Valley residents collected over 100 signatures on a petition requesting the City install a playground in Niu Valley Park. At its August 2, 2005 meeting, the Kuli‘ou‘ou / Kalani Iki Neighborhood Board #2 unanimously supported the placement of a playground apparatus and development of our playground park.
Since then, we have established a wide consortium of stake holder organizations, both public and private, that support our playground project. The Niu Valley Middle School, Lions Club, Boy Scouts, Maunalua Communities Foundation, our state Representative and City Councilman represent just a few of our supporters.
We’ve gotten plans drawn up by a resident architect and a commitment from Homeworks Construction, Inc. to grade and prepare the area free of charge. HMSA Foundation gave us a $5,000 grant and we’ve also acquired monies in the City and County of Honolulu’s CIP budget for our playground. On November 14, 2011, KaBoom!, a non-profit group and Let’s Play, a community sponsorship lead by Dr Pepper Snapple Group, announced that Niu Valley had won $15,000 in a social media contest, competing against 50 other communities around the country by garnering the top 5 votes on a Facebook page.
Hawaiians are known for their long journeys across the ocean in their canoes. Paddlers would have to pull their paddles together in order to make the canoe move quickly to reach land. There is an ancient proverb “Komo mai kau mapuna hoe” which means “Dip your paddle in (Join in the effort).” We’ve been on a similarly long journey and are in the final stretch of reaching our goal and building the playground of our dreams. Won’t you join us and dip your paddle in?