You are simply the greatest. We thank you for your latest outpouring of support for preserving, repairing and reopening the Waikiki War Memorial Natatorium.

EIS comments 8-22-14

Army veteran Craig McGinnis hands more than 1,100 comments supporting preservation of the War Memorial Natatorium to Honolulu’s acting director of design and construction, Mark Yonamine. (Credit: Donna L. Ching)

On Friday, the Friends of the Natatorium and the National Trust for Historic Preservation delivered comments from an amazing 1,161 people and organizations to the Honolulu Department of Design and Construction.

These comments – and the as-yet uncounted number that so many of you mailed directly to the city – will help shape the environmental impact study now getting under way.

As you know, the city proposes to demolish the Natatorium and replace it with an artificial beach. The city has claimed that the only alternative, the only way it could actually save Hawaii’s official World War I memorial, is a prohibitively expensive closed-pool design.

What You Asked For

We disagree. And so did you. You told the city in your comments that an improved, re-engineered open-flow design would conform to state Health Department regulations, would keep swimmers safe and would be far more affordable. You asked the city to ensure that its upcoming EIS remains legally sufficient by including a fair and thorough study of an open-flow alternative.

That would give us a fighting chance to get the Natatorium open for swimming again. It would enable us to honor our obligation to 10,000 World War I volunteers from Hawaii memorialized by the Natatorium.

What You Said About the Natatorium

So many of you had so many wonderful things to say in your comments. Here are a few examples:

sunset2 2012

”Sunset,” 2012, by David Kim

“My family grew up using the Natatorium. It is inextricably woven into the history of Oahu. … We used it, a lot, because some of us were less confident out in the open water. It is unique, [it] has a history, and efforts should be made to work towards preserving and refitting it.” — Margaret Mori, Campbell, California

“As a kid growing up on Oahu in the ’60s and ’70s, we would spend countless hours swimming in and clambering around the memorial.” — Jonny Pray, Venice, California

“I want my children to be able to come back to Hawaii and see this awesome historic site. Please save it!” — Ann Wilson, Scott Air Force Base, Illinois

“I grew up in Honolulu seeing the Natatorium every day and abhor the thought of yet another historic icon falling victim to so-called ‘progress.’” — Rosemary Dunn, Anchorage, Alaska

“[We] personally visited this location several years ago and found it to be a very moving and thoughtful place, and we hoped that it would be renovated, not destroyed to create another beach.” — Martha Singleton and Walt Walkington, Miami

“My aunt Ethel Hobbes was a nurse in World War I. She died while taking care of troops who had contracted the Asiatic flu. She was only 20 years old. Please save this memorial in Honolulu. History should never be forgotten. The sacrifice of our World War I service personnel is part of the fabric of what makes us Americans.” — Jane Varcoe, Waymart, Pennsylvania

“As an architect and preservationist, but mainly as the grandson of man who was a prisoner of war during World War I, I am that very disappointed that demolishing this memorial would even be considered.” — James Golden, AIA, Pinellas Park, Florida

“It is beyond distressing to learn that a beautiful monument to our World War I veterans is to be destroyed. What is the justification for destroying an architectural treasure so rich in significance?” — Andrea Young, Hingham, Massachusetts

“Surely, there are enough beaches around that you shouldn’t have to demolish a national treasure. Please, look again at your options. Don’t let the promises of those who don’t care about history override your thinking. New isn’t always best.” — Trish Doornbosch, Woodstock, Illinois

“We love, love, love, this piece of the beach, the zoo, the park, the New Otani, the overviews and particularly our strolls along the waterfront at the Natatorium. My initial reaction is, ‘Have you lost your collective minds?’ Honolulu is ground zero for water sports and surf capital of the world. You really should move this facility forward in kind with that global image of your town.” — Amy Gilreath, Boulder City, Nevada

“The demolition of this iconic landmark seems totally shortsighted and culturally thoughtless. There is nothing that you could build in its place that would be as lovely and as meaningful.” — Michael Beatty, New York

“Find a way to save this breath-taking, life-remembering and life-enhancing memorial.” — K Baker, Linthicum, Maryland

“We have soldiers fighting all over the world today. Passing through the airport yesterday, I saw a sign for a charity called ‘Operation Never Forget.’ Will we put a time limit on our remembrance of them, too, until it becomes time to build an artificial beach?” — Shannon Monaghan, Wellesley, Massachusetts

More Information

If you want to know more about the comments officially submitted to the city today, please read our news release.

What’s Next?

Next up? Now the city and its consultants get down to the job of doing the study and putting together a draft environmental impact statement. we expect them to take your comments and suggestions into account in their work. We’ll be watching, and we hope you will be too.

When it’s time to take action again, we will let you know.

Mahalo, and aloha.

Illustration from the International New York Times op-ed

From the op-ed page of today’s International New York Times comes this important meditation on “Why Our Monuments Matter.”

We love the eloquent conclusion:

“The great dislocation of our time indicates just how frail our monuments, our books, our thoughts and principles can be. Still, they exist — and they are our guide and our shield. But if our symbols are lost, we will be no better than ignorant armies riding pickup trucks through the endless dust, where canals, dried and gone, once made the desert bloom.”

Have you submitted a comment yet on Honolulu’s plan to demolish the wonderful, important Waikiki War Memorial Natatorium? The disturbing plan to actually raze Hawaii’s official memorial to its World War I volunteers.

Natatorium EIS Comments Deadline

If you haven’t, be apprised that the deadline for comments on the upcoming environmental impact study is this Friday, Aug. 22. There are two ways to submit a comment: The first is to write your own letter. [Instructions and a template can be found here; please be sure your letters are mailed and postmarked by Friday night.]

The second way, even easier is to add your signature to a letter written by the Friends of the Natatorium and the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

Either way: The deadline for input looms.

And “if our symbols are lost, we will be no better than ignorant armies riding pickup trucks through the endless dust, where canals, dried and gone, once made the desert bloom.”

The clock is ticking! If we’re going to save the Waikiki War Memorial Natatorium, we need your help shape the draft of the environmental impact statement. Make sure your voice is heard before the Aug. 22 deadline for public comment.

Twilight falls on the Waikiki War Memorial Natatorium

The Background

Here’s the situation: Two days after the open public meeting on the Natatorium last week, the City and County of Honolulu published what’s called an “environmental impact statement preparation notice.” [Note: It's a 141-page PDF.]

Now, after a 30-day public comment period, the city’s planners will write a draft environmental impact statement. Another public comment period will follow, and then a final EIS will be adopted.

As of this moment, the city, incredibly, is still proposing what it calls its “preferred action:” demolition of the Natatorium and construction of an artificial beach in its place.

You read that correctly: Rather than renovating and reopening Hawaii’s official World War I memorial, the City and County of Honolulu proposes to demolish it. Just tear it down. Raze a pre-statehood, 87-year-old tribute to Hawaii’s 10,000 World War I heroes and heroines. Bulldoze a place where dozens of Hawaii’s own Olympic medalists swam, where Hawaii’s keiki learned to swim and where families gathered for generations.

Worse yet: The City and County proposal to knock down this shrine comes during the four-year observance of the centenary of World War I. Really?

The EIS preparation notice grossly misstates the facts about the “preservation alternative.” It falsely claims that reopening the Natatorium would require an incredibly expensive “closed pool” design, rather than an affordable, re-engineered, open, ocean-fed tidal design.

In short, the City and County has stacked the deck. It has rigged this process against renovation and reopening.

What You Can Do

You have until Aug. 22 to tell the City and County and its EIS consultants to get this right. You have until Aug. 22 to tell them their study must be an objective and FAIR comparison of renovation/reopening vs. demolition.

You are welcome to write your own letter. But, to make it easier, we are also offering you a template. You can fill it out. You can add to it. You can edit in or out anything you wish so that the final letter represents your position on the Natatorium.

Write Your Letter Now

FIND THE TEMPLATE HERE. [To make editing easy, it's in Microsoft Word.]

When you’ve finished your letter, print out three copies and (well before that Aug. 22 deadline) mail one each to:

Mr. Clifford Lau
City and County of Honolulu/Department of Design and Construction
650 S. King Street, 11th floor
Honolulu, HI 96813

Ms. Celia Shen
WCP Inc./Suite 208
99-061 Koaha Way
‘Āiea, HI 96701

Mayor Kirk Caldwell
Honolulu Hale/Room 306
530 S. King Street
Honolulu, HI 96813

Remember: Your letters must be received by Aug. 22!

Let’s do this! MAHALO!

tee shirt

What Else Can You Do?

There are lots of other things you can do to help. One is to proudly wear our Friends of the Natatorium T-shirt. Our friends at ‘Ōiwi Ocean Gear make a donation to Friends of the Natatorium for every shirt sold!

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