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Wednesday, May 3, 2000

Plans in the works
for multimedia and
learning center
at Ford Island

By Harold Morse


Old seaplane hangars and seaplane ramps on Ford Island may be blended into a 75-acre visitor center that highlights World War II and the Pacific war, says Capt. Ray Snowden, commander of Navy Region Hawaii.

"Buildings could house museums for surface ships, submarines and aircraft," he said. "Museums could also include repair and restoration of vintage aircraft."

This multimedia and learning center could provide tourists in-depth looks at the history of Pearl Harbor, the Navy and events of World War II, he said.

About 50 interested citizens showed up last night for a scoping meeting on future development of Ford Island, a central feature in the Pearl Harbor National Historic Landmark, which was designated in 1964.

Five presentations at Washington Middle School stressed that the Navy wants to improve working and living conditions for sailors and families, effectively carry out its mission and emphasize historic preservation.

Navy officials say Ford Island development may be financed in part by sale or lease of other Navy property on Oahu. But Ford Island land may not be sold, only leased.

Carl Sato of the Naval Facilities Engineering Command said present Ford Island planning goes back to the early 1990s with the intent to build a bridge there from shore.

"By 1995 bridge construction was well under way, and as the bridge became closer to being reality, a new master plan was commissioned."

The preliminary plan featured historic preservation, open space and possible commercial opportunity in both the southern and northern hangar areas, he said.

Annie Griffin of the Naval Facilities Engineering Command traced Ford Island history.

The 19th century found it a home for goats, sheep and rabbits, and watermelons began to be grown there, she said. Sugar cane came later, phasing out in about 1914.

The United States acquired Ford Island in a series of negotiations from 1906 to 1916, the year the Army began installing gun batteries and officers' family quarters there.

Seaplane hangars and storage buildings came later. The Army left Ford Island in 1930. "Thereafter, the Navy continued its expansion by construction of additional facilities to support aviation," Griffin said.

The Pearl Harbor attack left many traces on Ford Island, and battleships Utah and Arizona still lie offshore, she said.

This round of Ford Island planning began with Navy publication of a notice of intent in the April 14 Federal Register to prepare an environmental impact statement on Ford Island development.

Another scoping meeting takes place at 7 p.m. tomorrow at Makalapa Elementary School, 4435 Salt Lake Blvd.

Written comments postmarked no later than May 15 may be mailed to Commander, Pacific Division, Naval Facilities Engineering Command, 258 Makalapa Drive, Suite 100, Pearl Harbor, HI 96860-3134, ATTN: Stanley Uehara (Code PLN231).

A draft environmental impact statement is to be completed Nov. 30, followed by public hearings. A final environmental impact statement is to be in hand June 1, 2001. A decision on Ford Island development is expected on about Sept. 1, 2001. The Navy says it welcomes public input on Ford Island plans. Additional information is on a Web site,

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