Citing cleaning, county closes Hilo park favored by homeless

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HILO, Hawaii (AP) — Hawaii County has temporarily closed a downtown Hilo park favored by homeless people as part of a "deep sanitization" to clean up litter and feces in the grassy waterfront space.

Mooheau Park closed Friday. It was not known when it will reopen but Maurice Messina, the deputy director of parks and recreation, predicted the closure would not last for more than a few days.

Mayor Harry Kim said the county needs to make sure the park is safe for families, the Hawaii Tribune-Herald reported.

"It's way past time — and I stress way past time," he said. "We got to put our foot down.

Kim added: "We need to remind everyone that this is our home. It's not their toilet, it's not their camping ground, this is not your rubbish dump."

The county needed to take action quickly because families and visitors were in an unclean environment, said Messina.

The issues have gotten worse and overwhelmed park maintenance staff, he said.

Workers will pressure-wash and scrub the park as well as pick up trash, he said. Messina described the cleanup as a "deep sanitization."

Sports teams and others with permits may still access the park during the closure. The park encompasses a commuter parking lot, practice fields and a bandstand.

Messina said a security guard will be posted at the park after it reopens.

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