Ala Moana park plan is improved
Landscape work on the design for Ala Moana Regional Park started in the early 1930s — and would continue for a decade in territorial Hawaii, with assistance from New Deal agencies such as the Civil Works Administration.
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Landscape work on the design for Ala Moana Regional Park started in the early 1930s — and would continue for a decade in territorial Hawaii, with assistance from New Deal agencies such as the Civil Works Administration. About midway through construction, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt dedicated entrance portals, fittingly calling the waterfront development “The People’s Park.”
And so it is. For generations, residents have embraced the 119-acre urban site as a popular destination for potlucks and shoreline recreation. Now, as city leaders are sizing up plans for much-needed upgrades, some people, who rightly feel a sense of ownership in the aging park, are sounding off. Mostly about preserving easy access.
It’s encouraging that recent revisions to plans indicate that city leaders are listening. In the Ala Moana Regional Park and Magic Island Improvements Draft Environment Impact Statement (EIS) published this week, most of the makai parallel parking stalls along the road through the park would remain in place, rightly so. Previously, the city’s master plan envisioned eliminating that parking to make way for a beachside “promenade.”
Earlier this year, park regulars complained that such a vision seemed to favor walk-in tourists over drive-in residents who enjoy the site’s curbside park-and-play charm. Motorists lucky enough to find an open makai parking spot typically have a short distance to haul coolers, canopies and other beach and picnic gear.
The draft EIS outlines plans for a sensible promenade alternative — a scaled-down “makai shared-use path” for both pedestrians and bicyclists. It would be framed by planters and trees to increase shade as well as benches and improved lighting. The master plan’s guiding principles stress restoring beauty while increasing accessibility and enhancing park features. This option seems to fit that aim.
In the interest of protecting the park, its people and interested groups should air all concerns. In that context, a member of a community group, Malama Moana, recently frowned on the city’s plan to reorient a majority of the mauka-side parallel stalls to perpendicular parking, citing concerns about complicating traffic flow and whether the road would have to be widened.
On this matter, the city’s vision appears to be appropriate, although public comment could result in some tweaking to address potential safety or environmental issues. Slanted parking would add 94 stalls to that area, in addition to reconfiguration at the Magic Island lot. Altogether, parking changes are now expected to result in a net gain of more than 200 stalls, thereby addressing demand for more parking — especially on weekends — with space-saving alignment.
With the ongoing construction of luxury condos along Ala Moana Boulevard and in the emerging Ward Village area, the look of the overall Ala Moana neighborhood is changing. The park’s look has changed little since the Magic Island peninsula was added to its east end five decades ago.
While there’s certainly no clamor for a Waikiki-feel makeover, Ala Moana park is overdue for some modernization and stepped-up attention to everyday maintenance.
Still, some residents worry that any park modernization could pave the way for too much tourist-focused gentrification.
Worries surfaced three years ago, when Mayor Kirk Caldwell hired a New York-based consulting firm to map renovation plans — and announced that new commercial features would be “on the table.” Parkgoers rightly opposed the idea of restaurants and other ventures eating up green space. And in response, Caldwell has declared food service would be limited to existing concession stands.
Thoughtful community input is key to forging the first-rate master plan the park deserves. Over the next several weeks, the city is accepting public comment on the draft EIS. The ongoing give-and-take will help ensure that our
“people’s park” thrives for many decades to come.