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Friday, March 10, 2000

State moving
on creating
Ala Wai park

The golf course now
on the land would move
to a different location

By Mary Adamski


Gov. Ben Cayetano has asked the Legislature for $860,000 to plan a park where Ala Wai Golf Course now thrives and $500,000 to assess Sand Island as an alternate golf course site.

David Blane, director of the Office of Planning, told a Kapahulu audience last night that the state administration is moving ahead with the idea intended to "increase the livability quotient" for urban residents.

He unveiled a drawing with a Central Park feeling -- shade trees, pedestrian pathways, an outdoor amphitheater and some commercial vendors, at a meeting of the Diamond Head/Kapahulu/St. Louis Heights Neighborhood Board.

There was only mild response at the first public discussion of the plan Cayetano announced in January. But a golfer in the crowd last night of about 30 people predicted a major lobbying effort against the idea of moving the country's busiest golf course, which sees 176,000 rounds of golf played annually.

"We're going to organize 'Friends of Golfers' and they'll be hearing from us," said Ivan Hoe of Kaimuki.

"Why spend all this money on planning before you do your research on Sand Island? Sand Island was a dump," he said.

"How do you expect to get EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) clearance on Sand Island?" Norman E. Weaver of Waikiki chimed in, pointing out the difficulty the state has had in getting the federal agency's approval to dredge Ala Wai Canal.

Blane conceded that research into Sand Island's environmental safety "may upset the apple cart." He assured the crowd that Ala Wai Golf Course would not be closed until there is an alternative golf course in operation.

Using that mid-city swath of green space for a park "is a question of equity," he said. "Ninety-five percent of people are excluded from using 150 of the most attractive, accessible acres." Blane said only 4 percent to 7 percent of the general population are golfers.

The artist's rendering of a park, which Blane described as just the starting place for planning and design, contains several ponds and lagoons. "The water features have more of a cleansing, engineering purpose than a recreational one," said the state planner. Ponds would be developed to filter sediment from water that naturally flows toward the canal and, together with springs in the area, would help flush Ala Wai canal.

People from the neighborhood board and the audience asked about commercial development in the proposed park. Blane said an earlier comparison with the River Walk in San Antonio, Texas, gave an inaccurate perception of extensive commercialization. "The more this is discussed, commercial use gets smaller and smaller," he said.

Bart Aronoff of McCully said: "Every inch taken away from green space is a loss to residents. There are plenty of businesses on the perimeter that are struggling to survive."

Although the governor needs lawmakers' budget approval, the decision to put an end to the golf course is in his hands, Blane said. The acreage is state land which the city controls under a state executive order which can be amended.

"If the governor doesn't make the decision, it's not going to happen," Blane said.

The decision would go to the state Land Board for approval, he said. The Legislature has authority to veto an executive order either through a two-thirds vote of the state Senate or a simple majority of the total Legislature, he said. What Cayetano has asked for is "seed money" and the ultimate development of a park would take more money, he said.

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