Tuesday, May 14, 2002

Paradise Park
purchase in peril

The governor remains
unpersuaded that UH needs the
rain forest property in Manoa

By Richard Borreca

Gov. Ben Cayetano may veto a $5 million appropriation to buy Paradise Park for the University of Hawaii.

The purchase, which has been favored by university scientists and House Speaker Calvin Say, has failed to get the support of UH President Evan Dobelle, according to Cayetano.

In a meeting with reporters yesterday at the state Capitol, Cayetano said he was likely to veto the appropriations in the capital improvements budget. That's because Dobelle had said the purchase was instigated by the Legislature and not the university.

"I asked Evan Dobelle, 'What is the University of Hawaii going to do with this?' He said it was not the university's idea, it came from the House of Representatives," Cayetano said.

"The university has autonomy. This project was not even approved by the Board of Regents," Cayetano said.

"I wonder why the Legislature is now foisting on the university a facility that may require another $10 million to $15 million to accomplish," Cayetano said.

The Roman Catholic Church owns 152 acres in the back of Manoa Valley, which include the 47.5-acre Paradise Park, on which sits several multistory buildings.

The property was once a tourist attraction with exotic bird displays.

A restaurant still operates on the property.

The university has eyed the property for several years, figuring that its location in the back of tropical Manoa Valley would be idea for the study of rain forests.

Earlier this year, UH officials had said the property would be used for conservation biologists for ecosystem sciences research.

In February, UH spokesman Paul Costello said UH had signed a purchase agreement and was in the middle of 90-day due diligence on the property.

Kenneth Kaneshiro, director of the UH center for conservation research and training, said the UH has been considering using the property for 10 years.

The concept, which Rep. Say (D, Palolo) had mentioned in his opening day address to the Legislature in January, would bring the major state and federal conservation groups together in a single UH facility.

David Duffy, leader of the Pacific Cooperative Studies Unit, said yesterday the site is ideal for expanding the study and teaching of tropical rain forests.

Only two major universities in the United states are able to study tropical rain forests, Duffy said, the universities of Hawaii and Florida.

"We have been ignoring the fact that we are in the tropics, and we have a glorious tropical campus. Kids are dying to study rain forests. This is something we can do better than anyone else," Duffy said.

"Paradise Park is a powerful place to do it in," Duffy said.

Cayetano, however, said yesterday he was against the proposal, saying that to his knowledge the university was not asking for the property.

"We need an explanation of why these apportions were put in the budget," Cayetano said.

The governor also repeated his opposition to an $8 million appropriation to purchase the Japanese Cultural Center in Moiliili.

Cayetano said the money, which would be used to bail out the nonprofit center, was not appropriate and that money for the center should come from other sources besides the state.

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