A note from Mo Radke, president of the Friends of the Natatorium
After years of study, the City and County of Honolulu has issued its final environmental impact statement on the Natatorium. And the news is terrific!
The final document confirms the conclusions of the draft EIS: Honolulu should rehabilitate the War Memorial Natatorium and reopen it as a public swimming venue.
The city said it now proposes to repair the memorial by pursuing the so-called perimeter deck option, retaining “as much of the physical structure that defines the historic integrity of the Natatorium as possible.”
The perimeter deck, allowing seawater to flow freely between the open ocean and the Natatorium swim area, won out over two alternatives: a prohibitively expensive freshwater closed pool on the one hand, and, on the other, demolition of the Natatorium to create a beach.
To all our supporters: Thank you! This wonderful result is a credit to your enthusiastic involvement over a long and challenging five years.
The city government started the EIS process in 2014 stating a preference for demolition, despite the Natatorium’s importance as a memorial to World War I veterans, despite its cultural and recreational significance, and despite the environmental consequences of demolition.
But you — individuals and organizations from Hawaii, across the country and around the world — submitted more than 1,100 comments that helped immeasurably in shifting the city’s preference to preservation.
Then, when the draft EIS came out last year, you responded again, submitting more than 280 additional pro-preservation comments. Many were wonderful, but it would be tough to top the handwritten notes and drawings from more than 50 fifth graders at Waikiki Elementary School. Mahalo nui loa to them and to you!
A special thank you goes to those Natatorium advocates who fought this fight for decades but did not live to see this day. Those include former Friends of the Natatorium president Lin Pang and stalwart supporters Nancy Bannick, Fred Ballard, Ron Yasui, Kay Napoleon, Roger Lee, and so many others.
I hope what we’ve done, with your help, and what we will continue to do, will make their rest a little easier.
We also want to thank the City and County of Honolulu for conducting a thorough process, approaching all relevant issues in a clear-headed, open-minded fashion and issuing a solid, factually and legally well-grounded, and comprehensive EIS. Mahalo also to the engineers and experts who carried out the extensive analysis contained in the final report.
This is not over. There is much to do, and there are challenges ahead! We will continue to tell the story of the Natatorium. We will advocate for funding to get the rehabilitation underway and the War Memorial reopened. We will continue to need your support; please stand ready to heed the call, as you have so many times.
With deep gratitude,
President, Friends of the Natatorium