A controversial playground planned for Ala Moana is headed to Kakaako

A controversial Ala Moana playground is headed to Kakaako

HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - Supporters of a controversial playground at Ala Moana Beach Park officially announced Saturday that they are moving the project to Kakaako. But the new site poses its own set of challenges.

The 1-acre playground, which was initially planned at the Diamond Head side of Ala Moana Regional Park, will now be located at the Kakaako Makai Gateway Park, next to the Children’s Discovery Center.

“The future playground will be the first place where all children can grow and play and learn together," said Tiffany Vara, executive director of Paani Kakou, which is backing the playground.

Added Ron Iwami, president of Friends of Kewalo: “It’s a much better fit next to the Children’s Discovery Center. I think they will come together nicely," he said.

The playground -- whose initial costs estimates were about $3 million -- will be built for 450 children at a time and will be the first on Oahu that’s specially designed for children with disabilities.

The 1-acre playground will be Honolulu's first that's specially designed for children with disabilities.
The 1-acre playground will be Honolulu's first that's specially designed for children with disabilities. (Source: none)

The playground’s Ala Moana location was heavily criticized by park users, concerned that much needed open space was going to be taken away from the public.

The biggest worry about the new location is the large homeless population nearby.

“How are we going to keep this playground safe in the long run and secure," said Alana Kobayashi Pakkala, board member of Paani Kakou.

“While we don’t have the definitive answers right at this moment, we’re all engaged in solving that problem.”

What helped change the minds of playground supporters is the recent transfer of the Kakaako park from the state to the city, which is better equipped to deal with the problems of homelessness.

Meanwhile, the city estimates that the new location could require six months to a year of additional planning and permitting activity.

“This was a municipal landfill. So we’re going to have to get an EA, an environmental assessment and maybe an EIS, an environmental impact statement," said Mayor Kirk Caldwell, who added that efforts are already underway to beautify the park.

The city said it hopes to boost foot traffic to the Kakaako park, so that proposed concession stands will generate enough money to pay for the maintenance of the playground.

“We are talking about maybe striping the fields here mauka of us and makai and maybe they can play football, they can play soccer, so we can have people coming to this park," the mayor said.

Said Michele Nekota, director of the city Department of Parks and Recreation:

“We want activate this park. We want to provide a lot of activities, recreational activities for everyone,” she said.

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