Strange things you see and say...

Monday, December 9, 1996

ByDean Sensui, Star-Bulletin
This Kapiolani Park rock structure was once
surrounded by lily ponds.

Park rock pile wasn’t
built to signal aliens

In Kapiolani Park there's a cairn-like pile of lava rocks, buttered together with mortar and braced by four legs, a couple of hundred feet away from the bandstand. Could it be the world's biggest Christmas tree stand? A tether for a Navy blimp? An early Hawaiian effort at building Barbie's Dream Castle?

It's really not much of anything. It once held a light atop, and that was about it. The problem is, the pile is out of its element. It looks odd now only because the cool stuff around it has vanished.

Kapiolani Park has changed mightily. It once held a racetrack (where the Army tested barrage balloons), a fairgrounds (the 49th and 50th State fairs were held there), a beautiful bandstand (not the current drab structure; this one was designed by Hart Wood and was a shingled pyramid with a dramatic scoop removed from one side), and, where the zoo stands today, a wonderland of interlocked lakes and garden-like peninsulas, where citizens could punt, picnic and pole their pirogue amid droopy trees. It was similar to Hilo's lovely Liliuokalani Park.

But then the Ala Wai canal came along and Waikiki's standing water ran out to sea. The maze of ponds were filled in, and the land was used for something really useful, like selling art on the fence every Sunday.

The pile of rocks near the bandstand was the focal point, ground zero, of a series of lily ponds. The outlines of the ponds can still be seen faintly in the grass. As a focal point, it was quite handsome; without being framed by lilies or promenading citizens, the pile seems orphaned, a victim of high municipal maintenance costs.

Now the only water in Kapiolani Park comes from the rains. Older readers will remember when the park would flood for weeks at a time in the 1960s, when the rains were mighty, not like the little weenie showers we get nowadays.

By Burl Burlingame

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