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City holds blessing for Centennial Park in Waikiki ahead of opening next year

  • JAMM AQUINO / JAQUINO@STARADVERTISER.COM
                                The entrance is seen during a blessing ceremony for the new Centennial Park.

    JAMM AQUINO / JAQUINO@STARADVERTISER.COM

    The entrance is seen during a blessing ceremony for the new Centennial Park.

Mayor Kirk Caldwell and members of the Rotary Club of Honolulu this afternoon held a blessing for Centennial Park in Waikiki, the city’s 304th park location.

The park, formerly a vacant, nearly one-acre lot on Aloha Drive between Royal Hawaiian and Seaside avenues, has been in the works for years, and is expected to open to the public by February of next year.

It was the result of a public-private partnership between the city and the Rotary Club of Honolulu, which put forth a donation of $1.5 million.

“The city had the land and the Rotary Club of Honolulu had the money and the energy,” said Caldwell in a news release. “We came together and transformed an area in the heart of Waikiki that had long been neglected. This park has been transformed into a much needed and long dreamed of green space for the residents of Waikiki.”

The mayor was joined by Department of Parks and Recreation Director Michele Nekota and Rotary Club of Honolulu representatives Rob Hale and Bub Wo.

Misty Kela‘i, executive director of the Mayor’s Office of Culture and the Arts, conducted the blessing with an umeke that was a musical award, salt from Laie, parks water and ti from the grounds of Honolulu Hale.

The park was the vision of late Waikiki resident Bill Sweatt, who along with his wife, Helen, fought plans by developers in the early 2000s to build another high-rise condo at the site, They envisioned a park instead, but for some time, the lot was used as a construction staging area.

Sweatt had a dream he wouldn’t give up, said the mayor, and which the Rotary Club of Honolulu carried forward.

The park is named “Centennial Park” in recognition of its 100th anniversary last year, making it one of the oldest Rotary clubs in the United States.

“I want to thank the Rotary Club because they did an excellent job in a P3 [public-private partnership],” said Nekota. “This is the perfect example of a P3 that works and is successful, and I want to thank them because they worked hard not just to get the money but also to plant the trees.”

The park will remain closed to the public for the time being to allow a wide variety of plant life — monkeypods, pink bombax trees, various palms, alahee, pohinahina, various species of ti, Eldorado, ginger, and Queen Emma and Kalakaua spider lilies — to get firmly established.

In the midst of it all is an expansive grand lawn of lush St. Augustine Grass.

The Rotary Club will also continue to make improvements to the site before its formal February opening.

“We are very much looking forward to opening this park location to this community, and towards our future goals of providing better lighting and fencing for the park,” said Hale, chairman of the Centennial Park Committee for the Rotary Club of Honolulu. “This project wouldn’t be possible without our partnership with the City, but also from the countless hours of volunteer work and donations made by our amazing island community. They have truly put their blood, sweat, and tears into making this park a reality. Mahalo to each and every one of them.”

More information is available at centennialparkwaikiki.org.

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