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Board asked to seek Bellows land


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POSTED: Sunday, July 12, 2009

Some Waimanalo residents are calling for the U.S. Air Force to return about 400 acres from Bellows Air Force Station because the land is being used for recreation rather than critical military purposes.

“;I'm asking the neighborhood board to adopt a resolution which asks for the return (of the land), and I expect the neighborhood board to transfer that resolution to Congress, our senators, and President Obama,”; said Joseph Ryan, a former member of the Waimanalo Neighborhood Board and a Waimanalo resident since the 1960s.

Ryan drafted the resolution after receiving an environmental assessment in March by the U.S. Air Force which wants to construct at Bellows 48 vacation rentals, a nine-hole disc golf course, a community activity center, a car wash, a water park, a resort pool, and a nine-hole par-3 golf course.

Ryan said his action is not related to the military's closing of Bellows to the public for a month recently. The popular beach and camping area was closed because of misuse and vandalism, military officials had said. It was reopened over the July 4th weekend.

According to Ryan, the state should get the land, which was appropriated by President Woodrow Wilson in 1917, since the military is no longer using it for its original military purpose.

A total of 1,510 acres of ceded land was appropriated in the presidential executive order, but in 1999, about 1,100 acres were transferred to the U.S. Marine Corps, according to the Corps.

“;When the Air Force decided by its EA to use the base for recreational services, they made the decision that this is no longer critical defense purposes. Recreation is a collateral purpose. It doesn't support the primary mission,”; said Ryan.

;  The military responded by saying that although the primary mission is recreation, the Armed Forces continue to train on the land. Hickam's 15th Security Forces Squadron, U.S. Marine Corps security forces, and the Honolulu Police Department use Bellows for training, including building clearing, hostage negotiation training, and robbery response.

“;Bellows continues to fill key roles in troop recreation and training,”; said Capt. Christy Stravolo of the Pacific Air Forces Public Affairs. “;One of the key priorities of the Air Force Chief of Staff is airman morale and readiness. Bellows contributes to this priority every day.”;

The Bellows Air Force Station offers cabins, camping sites, and other recreational activities for military retirees, soldiers in the reserve/guard, active military members, and U.S. Department of Defense civilians. According to Stravolo, 500,000 visitors use Bellows' facilities every year.

“;Troops can't afford the expensive commercial establishments, so here's a chance they have to relax with their families at a very reasonable price. The fees they charge are quite a bit less than Waikiki,”; said Gen. Robert Lee.

Lee is in charge of the Army National Guard at Bellows and trains newly promoted sergeants on unit tactics.

“;I think we can work it out with the community. We allow the Waimanalo Neighborhood Board to use our facility for their meetings; I believe we can work out a good solution,”; Lee said.

MEETING

The Waimanalo Neighborhood Board will meet at 7:30 p.m. tomorrow at Waimanalo Public Library to discuss the recreational use of land at Bellows Air Force Station. Public testimony is welcome.