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Post-marathon mess is city's fault, group says


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POSTED: Tuesday, December 16, 2008

A nonprofit organization is criticizing the city for not controlling vehicles that damage the grass at Kapiolani Park during events such as the Honolulu Marathon.

“;We don't believe the city is stepping up and doing it right,”; said Alethea Rebman, board president of the Kapiolani Park Preservation Society.

A muddy mess marred the Ewa section of the park following torrential rain and the footsteps of some 20,000 marathoners Sunday.

While members of the society support the event, they contend marathon organizers should not be allowed to drive vehicles on the grass or use spikes to pitch canopy tents on the grounds. Members say vehicles are the main cause of damage to the grass, tree roots and irrigation system.

Restricting commercial activity at the park—including festivals and craft fairs—would reduce damage at the park, members say.

“;It shouldn't have all this commercial use,”; said board member Heidi Bornhorst.

The preservation society was established in 1986 to ensure use and management of the park complied with the terms of a public charitable trust, which restricts “;permanent”; commercial use.

“;The basic thing we wish the city would do is to control driving,”; said Bornhorst. “;One vehicle drives (onto the grass) and everybody thinks they can drive on. When you drive on grass, it's not good. When you drive on wet grass, it's really not good.”;

This is the second year in a row that heavy rain soaked the marathon course and finish line at the park.

Jim Barahal, president of the Honolulu Marathon Association, said commercial activity was kept to a minimum at the event, and measures were taken to minimize damage to the park grounds. The marathon association spent $78,000 to repair and restore park grounds last year.

Barahal said he believes damage to the park this year is much less than last year.

Marathon officials took steps to minimize damage, including fortifying the park's access road with wood to protect the grass. Also, contractors were briefed to stay away from specific areas of the park, Barahal said.

Marathon officials said avoiding any damage to the park would mean cancellation of the event.

The event generated $105 million for the state last year, they said.

“;We always honor the park,”; said Barahal. “;We feel that we are very good custodians. Kapiolani Park is critical to the Honolulu Marathon.”;

The association is slated to conduct repairs to the park grounds this year as part of the terms of their permit, said Les Chang, director of the Department of Parks and Recreation. “;The marathon folks have been very good about repairing any damage. We've asked them to do it in an expedited fashion,”; said Chang.

He noted that all efforts are made to minimize vehicles on park grounds, but at times it is unavoidable.

Of the weather that compounded muddy conditions, city officials said there was not much that could be done to change the marathon date, as thousands of people travel to Honolulu to participate in the major event. It is unfortunate that it rained two years in a row, Chang said. “;That's just the way it is.”;