Many thanks to the many, many advocates for our War Memorial Natatorium who came out for last night’s public meeting!

As you can see from the photo (and only about a half of our overwhelming turnout made it into the picture), the pro-Natatorium crowd made an impressive showing in our bright yellow “Remember-Respect-Renew” T-shirts. EIS_Meeting (The back of the shirts reads, “Save ‘em!” Note the logo of the National Trust for Historic Preservation on the left sleeves.)

Among those who came out were veterans, including high-ranking leaders of the VFW and American Legion. There were surfers. Historic preservationists. Swimmers and water polo players. Residents of neighborhoods near the Natatorium. And many others.

And there were many who couldn’t be with us in person who we know were there in spirit. (We heard from supporters as far away as Maine and Maryland!)

A very special “Mahalo!” to Betsy Merritt, deputy general counsel of the National Trust. Betsy (she’s in the front row, far right, of the group photo) flew out from NTHP headquarters in Washington, D.C., to join us and took an active and important role in the meeting. (A photo of her making a point is included in today’s Star-Advertiser coverage. Betsy was also quoted in coverage by KHON-TV.)

What the Meeting was About

Remember the purpose of the meeting: to define the scope of the city’s environmental impact study of alternative futures for the Natatorium. We were there to make sure that the study will be comprehensive and fair and adheres to all legal requirements. We were there to ensure that it gives a fair shake to the “repair and reopen” alternative.

Stunningly, in documents released so far, that’s not the city’s “preferred alternative.” The city, as things now stand, proposes to demolish the Natatorium. (Yes, believe it or not: Demolish the state’s official World War I memorial, just as we observe the centennial of World War I!)

Before the meeting, the Friends of the Natatorium, the NTHP and Historic Hawaii Foundation told the city’s planners – WCP Inc. – what we think the scope of the EIS should include.

What Happened Last Night

Felix Martinez of Makiki, a veteran, says tearing down the Wai­kiki War Memorial Natatorium “would be an insult.” Star-Advertiser photo by Bruce Asato

Felix Martinez of Makiki, a veteran, says tearing down the Natatorium “would be an insult.” Star-Advertiser photo by Bruce Asato

Last night, our supporters raised other important questions, and the city’s planners took note: Will consideration of the “preferred alternative” take into account the fact that preservation is currently supported by organizations representing more than 2 million veterans and other constituencies nationwide? When can we expect updates to the inaccurate 2009 cost estimates and options the city is (still) using? What is the time frame for moving forward?

Additional concerns and questions can be submitted to WCP until Aug. 23. That date will mark the close of a 30-day period following the July 23 issuance of a formal public notice on the EIS process. According to WCP, the draft environmental impact study is not expected to become public until spring 2015 or later.

Please stay in touch with us – through our website and on Facebook and Twitter — so you will know when and how to be involved. More information and details on how to participate in the EIS process will be coming soon!

In the Meantime

There are lots of things you can do to help. One of them is to keep the Natatorium issue in the public eye by proudly wearing our T-shirt, very similar to the ones we wore last night. Our friends at ‘Ōiwi Ocean Gear make a donation to Friends of the Natatorium for every shirt sold!

The Time has Come!

We need you to stand up publicly on Monday, July 21, for repairing and reopening the Waikiki War Memorial Natatorium.

An open public meeting is set for 6:30 p.m. that evening in the Kaimuki High School cafeteria at 2705 Kaimuki Ave. Please mark that date on your calendar right now!

This two-hour meeting won’t determine the Natatorium’s fate, but it can get the conversation back on track.

Here’s the background:

Honolulu’s government wants to tear down the Natatorium. [Can you imagine? Demolish an official state war memorial?] Before it can act, the city is required by law to conduct an “environmental impact study.” That study must look at a range of options for the Natatorium site. A first step is to define what alternatives the study must consider and what questions it must answer.

WCP Inc., a planning firm working for the city, has asked some of us what we think those alternatives and questions are. The Friends of the Natatorium gave WCP a detailed response. We also told them face-to-face that an objective, thorough review will show it’s smarter to save the Natatorium than to pull it down. Environmentally smarter; financially smarter; smarter in any number of ways.

At the July 21 meeting, WCP will release its findings so far. It also will open the process to members of the general public for their views on what the EIS must address.

What You Can Do

That’s where you come in. Please attend. Join us, and our friends at the National Trust for Historic Preservation and the Historic Hawai’i Foundation. Insist on a fair shake for the “repair and reopen” alternative. You can say something like:

I welcome the Natatorium EIS process, but the preferred alternative must be preservation, NOT demolition of the War Memorial. Preservation is the most responsible choice financially and environmentally. It is also the choice that honors our veterans, respects our history, and enhances our future. Let’s repair and reopen the Natatorium.

There are some bullet points here that you can use, if you wish, to add to your statement.

You can also refer, if you wish, to the documents that the Friends, the NTHP and Historic Hawai’i Foundation submitted to WCP.

Thanks for your steadfast support for the Natatorium! Please let us know as soon as possible if you can be present. We will distribute Natatorium Rally T-shirts to our supporters to wear at this meeting and future events. Please let us know what size shirt you would like.

Mahalo and aloha!

More Things You Can Do to Help

Please share this post with anyone you think would like to come out to support the Natatorium on July 21.

If you cannot make it to the public meeting, please send your written comments to Mr. Derek Yasaka, President, WCP Inc., 99-061 Hoaha Way, Suite 208, Aiea, HI 96701. If you wouldn’t mind, please also share a copy with us.

And you can also buy a Natatorium T-shirt online to support the Friends and help us visually demonstrate the depth of support for reopening our national treasure.

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