The future of Ala Moana Beach Park
Ala Moana Beach Park is an amazing achievement of engineering, landscaping, and urban design. In “Ala Moana: The People’s Park” (1987), Robert Weyeneth reveals,
“In fact, however, Ala Moana Beach Park is entirely a man-made development. Its trees and shrubs are landscaping effects, arranged by the human hand, that have matured fifty years now. The park’s oceanfront swimming hole has been carved from the fringing coral reef. The beach is the creation of hydraulic engineers, who at periodic intervals replenish the sand with imports from elsewhere on the island of Oahu. Even the site itself is a human invention, a tidal area filled by excavating the offshore reef. The passage of five decades has turned the park into a setting of incomparable natural beauty, but Ala Moana is what a geographer would call a “cultural” landscape. It is the product of engineering expertise and landscape design.”
Last month, the City and County of Honolulu asked for our ideas and input about the future Ala Moana Beach Park. They spent a lot of money on a flashy interactive website and held community meetings.
To me, the future of Ala Moana Beach Park isn’t that complicated. At a fundamental level, all beach parks should be safe, clean, and well-maintained.
* Safe, clean restrooms and showers. To save electricity, we could have motion-sensor night lights that brighten when someone approaches the restrooms. To save water, we could have one-minute timers on the showers.
* Safe, well-lit parking lots with convenient bicycle racks. To cut down on traffic and road maintenance, maybe we could start a pilot project to prohibit buses and shuttles from entering the park –they could drop off and pick up passengers at a bus stop along Ala Moana Blvd.
* Well-maintained pathways for pedestrians, joggers, and bicyclists. To make the pathways safe, we could have motion-sensor night lights that brighten when someone walks by.
* Durable picnic tables and benches. To encourage recycling, there should be recycling bins near picnic tables and trash bins.
Here’s my vision for Ala Moana Beach Park: we should create an Ala Moana Beach Park experience by adding art, history, and exercise.
* Art in the park. Each restroom could be painted or tiled with artwork, each with a different theme – such as Ala Moana’s history, native flowers, marine life, and rain forests. The pathways could be painted by neighborhood schools or community groups with colorful designs or random pictures (shaved ice, honu) that could surprise and delight pedestrians. Picnic sites (there are 40 sites at Ala Moana Beach and Magic Island)
* Walking tours of the park. We could partner with a nonprofit to offer the tours that explain the park’s history, unique design, and beach safety. We could also work with neighborhood high schools as part of a community service project to promote history, public speaking, and fitness.
* Fitness and exercise stations. We could offer fitness classes through the Department of Parks and Recreation; or partner with a fitness club or hui that could help with maintenance and cleaning.
* Canoe rides in the canal. The canal is a safe, enclosed area (though in need of maintenance). To encourage canoe paddling and fitness, we could offer a canoe paddling class through the Department of Parks and Recreation, or work with neighborhood schools on canoe building projects.
Park improvements aren’t cheap – and Honolulu needs to be frugal with its spending. So how would we pay for park maintenance and improvements? I don’t think we should charge entrance fees or add parking meters, which would be a barrier to public access and enjoyment. Here are a few ideas to help with finances:
* Raise awareness about the existing Hoa Pāka program. Actively search for park volunteers and donations for park benches and picnic tables. To save money, look for ways the community could help install exercise stations, design unique playgrounds, and paint murals.
* Raise money with commemorative park “pavers” along sidewalks and paths. This would give park visitors a sense of history and connection to the park.
* Raise money with food truck sites. Two food trucks sites could be located at both ends of the park to avoid competing with the permanent concession stand. To qualify for a permit, food trucks would need to offer food and drinks that are not typically available at the concession stand. This would give park visitors a chance to try new foods, and offer food truck entrepreneurs a chance to reach more people.
Have you ever visited Ala Moana Beach Park? If you have, what are your favorite memories of the park? What would you do if you were responsible for its future?