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Other Views

By Jackie Kido

Saturday, October 21, 2000

It’s time to
share the Ala Wai

AS revealed in his Oct. 13 View Point column, Barry Usagawa fails to recognize that converting the Ala Wai Golf Course into a park is an idea whose time has come. It's disappointing that someone touting himself as an "environmental engineer" cannot grasp the larger picture when it comes to planning for our city.

Honolulu's two major parks, Kapiolani and Ala Moana, were established long before statehood -- Kapiolani in 1897 and Ala Moana in 1930. Since then, the City and County of Honolulu has grown tremendously.

In 1960, its population was 500,407. Today it stands at approximately 864,000. By 2010, the resident population is expected to reach 980,000, and by 2020 there will be an estimated 1,050,600 residents.

Tourism also has risen dramatically and will continue to increase. Yet, we have done little to provide people with the recreational space they need to live quality lives.

The Ala Wai is obviously the state's busiest golf course. The fact remains, however, that it sits on some of the most expensive real estate in Hawaii. This centrally located parcel should be experienced and enjoyed by everyone, not just a few who golf.

The 176,000 golfers who use the 145-acre Ala Wai Golf Course annually boils down to just 482 golfers per day. Many of them are repeat golfers who play 3-4 times a week, some at what amounts to only $3.20 per round.

By comparison, the 155 acres at Kapiolani Park, including the Honolulu Zoo, is used by approximately 3 million people a year, or 8,219 per day. And the 122-acre Ala Moana Park is used by approximately 2 million people per year, or 5,479 a day.

The state and city are spending millions to beautify and revitalize the Waikiki area. The state alone will spend $11 million to dredge and clean up the Ala Wai Canal. Yet, no one except golfers can use the adjoining Ala Wai Golf Course site, not even to jog along the canal.

What is so unreasonable about the governor proposing a plan that will result in so many more people using and enjoying this valuable acreage? Why can't Usagawa and his fellow "alienated golfers" go to an alternative golf course so residents and visitors can enjoy the Ala Wai?

Oahu's 36 golf courses, six of which are municipal, provide adequate golf opportunities. But who is looking out for the people who do not have a set of clubs? What about the elderly resident cooped up in an Ala Wai apartment? Or the mother of two young children living in a cramped two-bedroom Date Street apartment?

Compared to similar-sized cities, Honolulu falls far short of having adequate park space for its people. In fact, when compared to major West Coast cities, we are dead last. Even Minneapolis, with its frigid winters, has nearly twice as much park land per resident.

As with any major change, there will be resistance. For example, when the city proposed tearing down the old Kapiolani Park bandstand and building a new one, critics attacked the mayor for having the audacity to propose such a change. Today, nearly everyone agrees it was the right thing to do.

It is no secret that the governor, like Usagawa, is an avid golfer. Unlike Usagawa, however, Governor Cayetano can't only worry about convenience for himself and fellow golfers. He was elected to lead, envision and build a future for all Hawaii. That's what his proposal to build a great urban park at the Ala Wai is all about.

If Usagawa were to suggest to the people of New York that they convert Central Park into a golf course, they'd think him crazy. Twenty years from now, we will look back with equal stupefaction at just how long our community allowed this prime Ala Wai land to be reserved for the enjoyment of so few. It's time to share the Ala Wai.

Jackie Kido is director of communications
in the Office of the Governor.

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