DUKE'S POND: RESTORATION COMPLETED
FL MORRIS / FMORRIS@STARBULLETIN.COM
The Hilton Hawaiian Village's lagoon project is finished, though public use will not be allowed for another month.
Lagoon comes to life
For a long time, the Duke Kahanamoku Lagoon was a murky pond -- the last place a person would want to swim.
Its grubby shores were like a backdoor entrance to the glitter of the Hilton Hawaiian Village Beach Resort & Spa.
But the completion of a $15 million renovation over the past 2 1/2 years has given the historic lagoon new life. It now is:
» Shallower, about 5 feet deep in the middle, with a man-made liner covered with plenty of clean sand.
» Cleaner, with fresh salt water from wells entirely replacing the lagoon water five times a day.
» Prettier, with 60 coconut palms and dozens of other native Hawaiian and Pacific plants, a two-tiered waterfall and a lighted boardwalk.
The renovations will be celebrated with a private blessing ceremony this afternoon, but hold off before bringing the keiki down for a wading party.
The Hilton will not remove the construction fencing from around the lagoon for another month, to allow the plants time to get firmly rooted, said Cynthia Rankin, Hilton's regional public relations manager.
"The lagoon opening reflects the continuing commitment Hilton is making to our guests and our community," said Gary Seibert, Hilton area vice president and managing director.
The lagoon is a man-made feature created by hotel builder Henry J. Kaiser in the early 1950s by expanding the old Fort DeRussy Channel.
Sand for the refurbishment project came from a Pacific Aggregate quarry in Nanakuli and was washed three times, said Sam Lemmo, administrator of the state Office of Conservation and Coastal Lands, which signed off on the sand's quality.
"A decade or 20 years ago, people used to bring their families and have picnics at the lagoon," Rankin said. But its popularity waned with the decline in water quality, she said.
Portions of the lagoon surroundings nearest the hotel are private, but the lagoon and boardwalk areas are public and will be accessible 24 hours a day, once the construction fence is down, Rankin said.