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Friday, October 20, 2000

Ala Wai park
would be gathering
place, help clean
canal, state says

But many people at a
public meeting say to
leave the golf course as is

By Harold Morse

Gov. Ben Cayetano's proposal would not make the Ala Wai Golf Course into a theme park with a Ferris wheel and phony erupting volcano or a commercial mall considered as Waikiki II, says David Blane, director of the Office of State Planning.

A major park there would live up to Oahu's traditional meaning as a gathering place, Blane said last night at a community meeting at the Ala Wai Elementary School, hosted by state Rep. Galen Fox.

The park would also provide room for retention basins to clean up the polluted Ala Wai Canal and safeguard Waikiki from flood dangers, he said.

"I don't think there's any other word for the Ala Wai Canal other than it's a disgrace. ... This is a system that must be improved."

The state is now spending $11 million to dredge the canal, and a permanent system is needed to keep the canal clean, he said. It drains 10,000 acres, half of which are home to 150,000 urbanized residents who keep the streams and canal tainted with foreign substances and debris, he said.

But Lionel Aono, chairman of the city Board of Public Golf Courses, said to keep the municipal golf course as it is.

Many members of an audience of about 250 agreed. Some of them wore T-shirts saying, "SAVE THE ALA WAI GOLF COURSE."

"If it ain't broke, don't fix it," said Waikiki resident John Pritchett. Ala Wai is known as the most heavily used golf course in the world, he said.

Stan Nishimura, who lives in the Ala Wai area, said: "The average golf course to be built these days would be about $35 million. It's kind of ridiculous to take the golf course away and spend $35 million (for a replacement). Spend $35 million for the children's education."

Aono, who indicated he was speaking as a concerned golfer rather than representing the board he chairs, said silt traps meant to clean the canal might be more like open sewer traps.

He disputed claims that only seniors use the golf course. "Nothing could be further from the truth. The seniors make up about 38 percent of the players at Ala Wai."

Aono said the state plan to do away with Ala Wai is high-handed. The seven members on the public golf courses board he chairs were never consulted, he said. "You don't do this in a democracy," he said. "Maybe in a Third-World country you do."

Blane countered that the plan could not become effective for at least three years, and the public will have ample opportunity to make its views known.

The earliest the Legislature could fund the Ala Wai plan would be 2002, and public hearings will be held, Blane said.

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