Action Alert: Send a Letter Now to Support Honolulu’s New Plan for the Natatorium

You’ve heard the good news: The City and County of Honolulu is now proposing a plan to preserve, repair and reopen the War Memorial Natatorium in Waikiki!

The city’s recently released draft environmental impact statement chooses the so-called perimeter deck option for resolving the long, long, far-too-long stalemate on the Natatorium’s future.

Twilight falls on the Waikiki War Memorial Natatorium

Credit: Jon Radke

Thank you for making this happen! You Natatorium supporters have made your voices heard at every step in this process.

Thanks to you, we’ve taken a fabulous leap forward. But we still need your help. We need you to write again. Please submit your comments to the city government asking that the draft EIS be adopted as final and that the Natatorium reopening project move speedily forward.

Two Options for Submitting Your Comments

If you wish, you can compose your own letter and submit it to the City and County of Honolulu by email at It’s always good for policymakers to hear exactly what you want to say, from the heart.

Your other option: Use or adapt the model language we’re providing below.

Either way: The deadline for submitting your comments to the city is Monday, Dec. 24. Time is short, so do it now or put a definite time on your calendar to work on and submit your comments.

No matter which option you choose: Mahalo! Your voice, added to those of so many others in Hawaii and across the nation, truly makes a difference.

Model Language for your Letter

Use or adapt the following language as you choose. We urge you to be as personal as possible in stating your reasons for supporting the preservation and reopening of the War Memorial Natatorium in Waikiki.

Department of Design and Construction
City and County of Honolulu
By email:

Dear Project Team:

I write in support of the draft environmental impact statement for the Waikiki War Memorial Complex. In particular, I write to express my strong support for the preferred option, the perimeter deck, which would make possible preservation, repair and reopening to the public of Honolulu’s wonderful War Memorial Natatorium.

[Please insert here a statement on your personal or family connection to the Natatorium, and/or the reason for your personal interest in the fate of the Natatorium.]

I believe the War Memorial Natatorium is of major importance and should be preserved and reopened for a number of reasons, among them:
–It is an official state memorial to more than 10,000 from Hawaii who volunteered in World War I. We should never abandon our obligation to remember and honor them.
–It has been (and can again be) a unique and valuable recreational resource for the citizens of Hawaii and for visitors to Oahu.
–It is hugely significant to the cultural history of Hawaii and to the history of competitive swimming in Hawaii, the United States and the world.

I believe that the perimeter deck option, identified as the preferred option in the draft EIS, is the correct path forward for the Natatorium, for these reasons, among others:
–It accomplishes the preservation and reopening of this landmark cultural treasure.
–It is safest and most environmentally responsible option for swimmers, the shoreline and the Marine Conservation District.
–It would cost less than demolishing the memorial, mining offshore sand and creating a new beach where none naturally exists.
–Its design would result in frequent flushing of the ocean water in the swim basin, resulting in water quality the same as the adjacent ocean.
–It would add no new development to the existing built footprint in Waikiki.
–It is capable of securing all needed permits relatively quickly, in contrast to the demolition option, which faces possibly insurmountable legal and regulatory obstacles.

I urge the City and County of Honolulu to finalize the EIS and move forward with preservation, repair and reopening of the War Memorial Natatorium in a manner consistent with the perimeter deck proposal. I further urge the city and county to give priority consideration in the development of a detailed design – as they would in the design of any major capital project – to any identified safety and environmental issues.

[Please insert here any other comments you wish to make.]

Thank you for your consideration, and for all that you have done to move this important project forward.


[Your name]
[Your postal address]
[Your email address]

For More Information

Many readers of this post know the entire story of the Natatorium. But for those of you who are new to the issue or to the environmental impact study process, we have helpful recommendations. First, the National Trust for Historic Preservation has both a brief web story and excellent video with the history and background of the Natatorium. Second, Historic Hawaii Foundation has posted an excellent advocacy alert with everything you need to know about the environmental impact study.

Again, mahalo nui loa!

Categories: Environmental Impact Study, Friends of the Natatorium, and National Trust for Historic Preservation.


  1. Jerry Gebhard

    What a joy it will be to swim at the Natatorium, and what an honor it shows for our World War I soldiers. I used to swim in the Natatorium, and it is such a great feeling. Let our children experience this joy, too!

  2. Laura Kauhane

    Memorials to the people who have gone before us should always be preserved. This is our history and was built for future generations to learn from. The Natatorium has served as a wonderful place to swim. My husband and all of his brothers took their junior lifeguard certification there many years ago. Countless children learned to swim there. The powers that be have failed their constituents by allowing this wonderful piece of history fall into such disrepair.

  3. Howard Sonoda

    As a 5th grader at Liholiho elementary school, I learned how to swim at the Natatorium. The instructors were very good. After the get-acquainted-with-water splashing on the beach, we went to the Natatorium for the real swimming. The water looked deep and spooky. But I learned how to swim in deep water and this is still a huge benefit. Now I am 76 years old and living in Massachusetts next to a pond. I hope my grandchildren will swim in the Natatorium. It is a wonderful symbol of Hawaii, of Honolulu, of a time when Kalakaua Avenue was a two-way street.

  4. Richard Osman

    Beaches work. Especially in Hawaii. Public baths don’t. Especially in Hawaii. Tear it down. Restore the Beach.

    And to those who would cynically hide their selfishness behind the valor of WWI vets: pay respects at their graves… but don’t tell me you honor their service by going for a swim.

  5. John Hall

    My first hope is that they restore it to it’s original condition, however if not then at least demolish it so we are no longer ashamed of it. It’s bad enough to let any public structure go to pieces but to let that happen to a War Memorial and to a structure in such a high profile location is a public disgrace.

    It’s pitiful how the state as well as C&C government has become so inept in my lifetime. The Ten plus Billion dollar debacle which is HART, the pitiful state of the beaches and lack of a boardwalk in Waikiki and all the other failures combined with sky high taxes. It’s still a great place to call home but it’s despite our state and local governments not because of them.

  6. Dean Stowell

    My mom grew up swimming in the natatorium. She worked for many years trying to get it restored before her passing. It would be great for her grandchildren, who share her love of the ocean, to be able to swim there as well. Not to mention honoring those for which the memorial stands . Please do the right thing this time and complete the restoration.

  7. Hardy Spoehr

    I was late but my comments sent to C&C:

    Aloha. I fully support the renovation of the Natatorium. Most of those who do not are not keiki o ka aina (born) of Hawai’i. They see only beach and coconut trees. They fail to see na ‘uhane (spirits) of the Kahanamokus, the Kalamas, the many who as kamali’i (children) thrilled at jumping off the high platform which graced the pool; the multitude of lifeguards who considered the facility their professional home; the thousands who “learned to swim” in the pool through Red Cross programs; the fishermen who “poled” off its walls; the many local families who picnicked in the stands; the volleyball players who took over the outside parking areas on weekends and where some of Hawai’i’s greatest volleyball ever was played; and most sacredly, the spirits enshrined in the standing edifice memorializing their lives lost from our shores in World War I.

    Over the decades, sadly we as citizens of Honolulu have seen fit not to value our historical places. Our policy makers have tended to only see value in focuses on the “new” at the expense of the old – particularly in Waikiki – a process which began when the City refused to accept Archibald Cleghorn’s gift to the City of his home ‘Ainahau; continued when we lost the old “Queen’s Surf” and the Queen’s traditional Rose Garden was converted to hibiscus; and now we find ourselves with almost nothing of the old Hawai’i left. My friends – we, ourselves, are destroying the only historical properties we have left which make Hawai’i, and, indeed, Honolulu and Waikiki unique and special. The Natatorium is one of the last, if not the last, historical property in Waikiki. I cry a tear when I think there is the possibility of taking my grandchildren or my grandchildren taking their children to a part of Kaimana beach strewn with suntanning bodies and beach towels and pointing a finger to a vacant coral laden portion of the shore and telling them the stories of those wonderful and historical people and events that occurred in Hawai’i’s first and only 100 yard swimming pool.