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Friday, January 12, 2001

City & County of Honolulu

Questions raised
about cancer
survivors’ park

Some on the Council say
they endorse the idea; one
questions the site choice

By Gordon Y.K. Pang

City Council members are questioning a cancer survivors' park planned for as many as two acres of Ala Moana Regional Park, Honolulu's busiest beach park.

An appropriation of $750,000 is part of Mayor Jeremy Harris' supplemental capital budget request.

City officials say the nonprofit R.A. Bloch Cancer Foundation, based in Kansas City, Mo., will give $750,000 to the city and an additional $100,000 for maintenance.

Some Council members said they endorse the concept but question the process since the Harris administration has not discussed the issue. Harris officials said that they are not wedded to the Ala Moana site.

Councilman Andy Mirikitani, who represents the region, said neither he nor the Ala Moana-Kakaako Neighborhood Board have been informed about the project.

The Bloch foundation has been funding cancer survivors' parks designed to give hope and knowledge that cancer is not a death sentence, said Vangie Rich, assistant to organization co-founder Richard Bloch.

About 15 parks have been built in cities including Dallas, Chicago, Omaha and New Orleans. Another 17 are in development, Rich said.

Bloch is a founder of H&R Bloch, the national chain of tax preparers. He was cured in the 1980s.

Each park shares three features:

Bullet A sculpture with eight life-sized figures passing through a maze depicting successful treatments.

Bullet A "positive mental attitude walk" with 14 plaques offering suggestions and inspiration.

Bullet A "road to recovery" with seven plaques describing what cancer is and how to overcome the disease.

Mirikitani said such a park is necessary on Oahu, but he isn't sure Ala Moana is the place.

"It's the city's most heavily used beach park on the island by locals and tourists," Mirikitani said. "Perhaps this area is not conducive to creating a healing, meditational environment that is necessary to achieve the purpose."

Gary Okino, who heads the Parks Committee, also said he has questions. "This was never brought before the Parks Committee," he said. "It takes two acres away from a very active park."

The supplemental budget request may list Ala Moana, but "the site has not been selected," said Carol Costa, Harris' spokeswoman. What is being considered is "half an acre to two acres" on the mauka side, just Ewa of a larger lagoon, Costa said.

Area resident Bobbie Jennings, who exercises frequently in the park, is troubled: "I cannot believe that they would take the busiest, most used park in the state and actually build something like that there when there are so many other available places they could put this."

But Jackie Young, a cancer survivor, said it would be an excellent addition. "I got chicken skin reading about what happens to people when they go through (survivor) parks."

City & County of Honolulu

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