Kakaako Makai: Nonprofit group can help fulfill vision of a cultural gathering place
THIS YEAR Governor Lingle restated her strong commitment to home rule, and the Legislature listened carefully to the voices of the people of Honolulu.
Throughout the legislative session thousands of faxes, e-mails and petitions clearly conveyed the public desire for preservation and protection of the Kakaako Makai shoreline as recreational open space for future generations. Landmark legislation was passed to preclude the sale of state land to private interests and to prohibit residential development from consuming public land for private use and speculation.
This significant legislation reflecting the will of the people now awaits enactment by the governor.
What is this place called Kakaako Makai?
Kakaako Makai tells us the history of Kewalo Basin, once a lumber dock for the building of Honolulu. Beginning in the late 1800s across a span of 70 years, this was home to a fleet of wooden fishing sampans. The Kula Kai is the last Hawaiian sampan surviving to reflect this era of intensive hard work of harvesting from the sea. The ice chute that once loaded sampans with ice to preserve their catch and its companion fishing-gear shed still stand as sentries alongside the basin cove. Both are deemed culturally significant by the state Historic Preservation Division.
Kakaako Makai's past industries have included a tuna-packing plant, a base yard for city maintenance vehicles, a historic wastewater pumping station and a depository for Honolulu's opala with two incinerators. There is now a precious opportunity to transform Kakaako Makai from cinders to a cornucopia of recreational, cultural and educational opportunities for Honolulu's diverse public interests:
» Kakaako Makai's cresting surf beckons residents daily from Manoa, Hawaii Kai and even Wahiawa. This expansive public shoreline also offers welcome space for a future bike path and a generous shoreline promenade. The health and welfare of Kakaako Mauka's anticipated 30,000 new residents, as well that of all our residents and visitors, will benefit substantially from Honolulu's last available shoreline open space becoming a significant recreation area and a vital continuance of the lei of parks from Diamond Head to downtown.
» Kakaako Makai's master plan also must consider our keiki with a spectrum of recreational and educational opportunities, ranging from the expanded shoreline park for family picnics to the Children's Discovery Center, now an island unto itself; and from a needed community center to interactive exhibits at an open and inviting long-sought surfing and watersports museum and hall of fame. Promoting the keiki fishing and marine conservation activities at the Kewalo Basin cove will safely introduce them to the world of the sea.
» Kakaako Makai can become an important cultural asset to the renaissance of Hawaiian cultural interests. With proper guidance on traditional practices from our kupuna, a traditional Hawaiian fishing village within the Diamond Head-mauka portion could include a canoe-building shed at Kewalo Basin, a fishpond and kalo loi along a stream that meanders toward a makahiki area and grove of native coastal trees, traditional Hawaiian craft and martial arts demonstrations, and the telling of Hawaiian history and legends.
» Kakaako Makai also can be the home of vibrant multiethnic festivals to honor and reflect our island's broad cultural diversity in the Gateway Park area, which also could feature a new bandstand for free Sunday concerts. A sustainable signature Performing Arts Center would be set back from the shoreline over the site of the seldom-used Waterfront Park amphitheater.
» Kakaako Makai's statute calls for a cultural public market. An open farmer's market with local produce and a fish market that continues the cultural history of this area will serve the community in a healthful way. These also would reflect the traditional Hawaiian trading practice between the mountains and the sea.
Kakaako Makai's expanded shoreline recreation area and public-interest facilities can be constructed, operated, maintained and sustained under the management of a nonprofit foundation established to ensure 20-year retirement of revenue bonds through nonprofit revenues generated by the carefully planned public facilities and their uses. The area's former industrial sites with toxic contamination now have the attention of the federal Environmental Protection Agency, which assesses Superfund sites and provides Brownfields remediation grants. Thus there should be no need to solicit special interests to buy and convert this state land to private use.
Kakaako Makai can be place that makes Hawaii special for all Honolulu's people, not merely a select few with an unobstructed view from private high-rises or operators of a redundant private commercial retail complex devouring public open space. Kakaako Makai has the developable area and the strong public support to provide significant recreational amenities, cultural opportunities and educational experiences for residents and visitors of all ages. Honolulu's future generations deserve no less.
About the author: Michelle S. Matson coordinated development of the Kakaako Shoreline Park Plan ("The People's Plan") for sustainable public use of the Kakaako shoreline. She is a member of the Diamond State Monument Head Citizens Advisory Committee, the Diamond Head-Kapahulu-St. Louis Heights Neighborhood Board and Waikiki Residents Association Board.