Gov., mayor plan to demolish Natatorium pool

By Catherine Cruz
Published On: Apr 30 2013 06:30:00 PM HST

Decades of squabbling over what to do with Waikiki's Natatorium could be over.

HONOLULU -

On this fateful day, a rare look at the crumbling structure of the Waikiki Natatorium War Memorial.

In the past, access was limited as the debate rated over whether it should stay or go.

"As you can see this part of the pool is completely deteriorated.  That's why it's been off-limits for decades," said Gov. Neil Abercrombie.

On Tuesday, the governor kicked sand on his plan for a beach volleyball venue.

The new vision is back to demolishing the pool, moving the arch and building a new beach.

"The plan that is before us now is the only practical way we can honor the memorial's purpose," said Abercrombie.  "We are going to show respect and good sense as well as put those two things together.  That is what this plan is all about."

The city gave the verbal OK on Tuesday to finish the Environmental Impact Study that was stalled last year.

"We need to do it right.  Turn over every stone.  Answer every concern and mitigate any impacts and then move forward with design and construction and funding," said Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell.

The city says this plan would cost taxpayers about $18 million compared to nearly $70 million to try and fully restore the memorial.

So, the plan to install two groins to try and expand the usable beach area is back on track.

"I am delighted that we have concluded that we can give this back to the ocean and still honor the brave soldiers," said Rick Bernstein of the Kaimana Beach Coalition.

And at a time when beaches across the state are eroding, University of Hawaii scientist Chip Fletcher acknowledged this move to add to the shoreline.

"It is very insightful and forward-looking to see the city and state building new beaches for people to enjoy and access to the ocean," said Fletcher.

The Friends of the Natatorium, which supports full restoration, told KITV they are shocked and disappointed at the news.  At this point, they are not sure what their next step might be.

If the Natatorium is demolished, there is still the issue of what to do with the lifeguard substation that is housed there.  The mayor says he is looking for a temporary location in Waikiki while the city goes forward with building a new Ocean Safety headquarters in Kaka'ako.

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