The pond on the Ewa end of Ala Moana Park is lined with birds. When they take flight, they fill the view.
Massive cleanup will shut city park
An unprecedented three-day makeover begins tomorrow at Ala Moana
City workers from around the island will converge on Ala Moana Regional Park starting tomorrow during a three-day closure to clean up one of Oahu's busiest parks.
They plan to fix everything from picnic tables to potholes, paint the park's historic, art deco entryways and scour bathrooms.
"It's one of our crown jewel parks in Hawaii," said Les Chang, city Parks and Recreation Department director, adding that the closure and makeover are "unprecedented."
"We want to put the shine back on that park," he said.
The 78-hour closure was announced last month and will continue through Thursday. Motorists will not be allowed to drive into the park, and facilities will be closed. However, swimmers will be allowed on the beach, Chang said.
During the closure, dozens of park workers will be called in from around Oahu to lend a hand in the maintenance work. Arborists will also be inspecting the park's trees for disease. And road crews are expected to fill potholes and repaint parking lines.
"It's a complete makeover," Chang said.
Ala Moana Park, known as the "people's park," was built during the Great Depression, mostly with federal grants.
Its art deco entry portals, which are set to be repainted during the closure, were dedicated in 1934 by President Franklin Roosevelt, according to historian Robert Weyeneth.
Chang said he knows of no time in the park's history that it was closed down for top-to-bottom maintenance, though there has been periodic work to revamp the recreation area.
"It's probably the No. 1-used park," Chang said.
He also said he could not estimate the costs of the three-day cleanup because it is being handled in-house.
Chang discussed the maintenance work at a city parks advisory board meeting on Thursday in Kapolei, during which members also unanimously passed a resolution in support of making the night closure of Ala Moana Park permanent.
The nine-member, volunteer board said the closures from 10 p.m. to 4 a.m. daily are necessary to keep the park clean for all users.
Chang said the measure will be taken into consideration along with residents' comments. He also said he would not have acted on a permanent closure without first hearing from the board.
"We are now looking at doing it permanently," Chang told the board members. "I don't have the answers on the homeless, but my bigger job is as a parks director. The park is not set up for overnight stayers. It is a park open for recreational use."
The city started closing the park at night on March 27, forcing more than 200 homeless people to move elsewhere.
Many are staying at Central Union and Kawaiaha'o churches, which have pledged to shelter the homeless until Sunday.
It is unclear where the homeless will go once the churches close their doors, but some advocates have suggested Gov. Linda Lingle authorize use of Sand Island State Park.
The Ala Moana temporary night closure policy lasts until June, when the city will decide whether to make the change permanent.
Members of the parks advisory board, which includes former University of Hawaii Athletic Director Hugh Yoshida and Hawaii Visitors and Convention Board Chairman Don Takaki, said the closure has meant there is less stress on the park.
"It's a wonderful start," said member Cecelia Blackfield.
Chang said that most of the comments he has received from residents are in favor of the night closure in an effort to keep the homeless from camping at Ala Moana.
He said some have also criticized him for removing the homeless without offering them another place to stay.
Meanwhile, Chang said, residents have also suggested the city clean up and remove the homeless from other parks, especially on the Waianae Coast. "We have a lot of people asking us when we are going to get to their park," he said, adding that he is mapping out potential options for other parks.
"We started with Ala Moana. It's a park that a lot of people go to," Chang said.