Wednesday, May 5, 1999

Cannon Club decision
expected this summer

If the Army declares the land excess,
the state may buy it for use as an adjunct
visitor center to Diamond Head

By Gregg K. Kakesako


The Army says a decision on whether the Cannon Club on the slopes of Diamond Head can be returned to the state could be made by the middle of this summer.

The matter is now pending before Secretary of the Army Louis Caldera.

Army spokeswoman Amy Alie said the Diamond Head parcel would have to be offered first to other military departments and federal agencies if Caldera declares the choice Diamond Head real estate to be in excess.

An appraisal of the buildings and other improvements will have to be done by the General Services Administration during the screening process, Alie said.

Nearly two years ago, the Army closed the Cannon Club because it was losing money. It initially had hoped to reopen it in the fall of 1997 with a private contractor running the food and beverage operations, which would be open to the civilian community.

However, that idea never materialized, and the Army quietly abandoned its plans.

Two months ago, the request to declare the 7.65 acres of ceded land excess was presented to Caldera. The property includes two parking lots, a luau and banquet pavilion, sun deck and gazebo.

State Parks Administrator Ralston Nagata said there is nearly $1 million in the state's supplemental budget now pending before lawmakers to purchase the buildings and the parking lots.

He also hasn't heard anything from the Army, but is hoping the deal to turn over the land will occur this summer.

"We have requested $1 million, but we hope we can get it for less," Nagata said.

Use of the Cannon Club property is included in the state's master plan for the area.

Under proposed changes for Diamond Head State Monument, the Cannon Club could be used as an adjunct visitor center. Its large parking lots could accommodate visitors once the proposal to ban cars from the crater is in place, Nagata said.

Visitors could either walk into the crater from the Cannon Club or take a tram.

"But that is far in the future," he added.

Current plans call for a 20,000-square-foot visitor center in Diamond Head Crater with the possibility of expanding it by another 5,000 square feet when the need arises.

Three picnic areas would be established where the Federal Aviation Administration and three Hawaii Army National Guard warehouses and office buildings are now located.

Hikers would be restricted to only using established trails.

The entire project would cost $21.4 million and take four years to construct. The proposal, which also involves entrance fees, would have to be approved by the state Board of Land and Natural Resources.

Nagata said still pending are the environmental studies needed to undertake such a development.

The 10-page Army environmental assessment completed in September said the Army no longer needs the land, which was part of Fort Ruger when it was established as a military installation in 1906. The original installation was 755 acres and included Diamond Head.

The Hawaii National Guard acquired Fort Ruger in 1955. The Cannon Club, which was Fort Ruger's officers club, was built in 1945.

The Hawaii Army National Guard plans to relocate to Barbers Point Naval Air Station, and the FAA will move to Honolulu Airport.

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