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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Monday, August 20, 2001

City canoe halau to cost millions

By Eloise Aguiar
Advertiser Windward Bureau

Mayor Jeremy Harris is proud of the city's ambitious plan to construct 11 canoe halau over the next few years in a program that pays tribute to Hawai'i's proud paddling heritage. But with the cost involving millions of dollars, legislators and some paddlers themselves are wondering if the price tag is excessive.

The canoe halau in Kailua was the first such project and cost $400,000. Others will cost up to $1 million.

Kyle Sackowski • The Honolulu Advertiser

The first building completed, in Kailua, cost about $400,000. Another planned on the Ala Wai Canal is expected to cost about $1 million. Yet another in Maunalua Bay Beach Park is estimated to cost $650,000. The Kainona Beach Park facility is costing $500,000. And seven more are being designed.

"Basically, the canoe hale is a garage," said Kane'ohe paddler Kurt Mench, adding that his club built a shed with five bays for $4,000 out of telephone poles and tin roof. "With the money they spent on the planning alone you could build a bunch of them."

But Harris said the figures are in line with prevailing construction costs and providing facilities for the long-neglected paddling community is relatively inexpensive when considering the amount spent on other sports such as golf and baseball.

The city recognized its role in developing canoe halau in 1986 when it established the Canoe Council within the park's department. The first halau was built in 1990 at Ala Wai Neighborhood Park at the end of University Avenue at a cost of $331,000. Prior to that, clubs fended for themselves, building shacks or storing equipment in people's garages.

Four halau to cost $2.5 million

This year the city will spend $2.55 million to build canoe facilities at Kailua; Maunalua Bay Beach Park in Hawai'i Kai; at the Kapahulu end of the Ala Wai Canal; and at Kaiona Beach Park in Waimanalo from its $81 million Department of Park and Recreation budget. By comparison, the city spent $20 million for the Central Regional Park that caters to field and court games.

"It's really shameful that government hasn't provided facilities for what is the truly Hawaiian sport," Harris said. "I think it is very unfair if people think that's too much money to invest in this sport that involves little kids, adults and senior citizens in every community on the island."

Some 4,100 people are involved in competitive paddling on O'ahu.

Arthur Kimbal Thompson, the architect for the Kailua project, which recently won a design award, said the project budget was tight so the design was simple, consisting of concrete slab floors and exposed coral aggregate pillars to hold up a tile roof.

The halau is two 1,200 square-foot gated structures connected by an 800 square-foot trellised area. The shelter is part of a larger $868,000 park project that includes two pavilions, reroofing of the gazebo and concrete walkways.

Questions were raised about he tile roof, copper gutters and tongue-and-groove ceiling, but Thompson said the lumber used is all treated Douglas fir. The copper and the tile were selected for their endurance and low maintenance.

The city didn't want wood shake roof because it rotted, and concrete shake tended to decompose in Hawai'i's humid climate. Metal roofs were unpopular with the planners, and the long-lasting clay tile offered the best cost benefit, including the ability to withstand impact of up to 300 pounds.

"When you consider it's all concrete and stone, built to be maintenance-free and built to be there for several generations, I don't think it's that costly," said Thompson, who paddled for 18 years.

Sen. Fred Hemmings, R-25 District (Kailua-Waimanalo), isn't sold on the price. A one-time canoe paddler, Hemmings said he supports building halau and other sports amenities on O'ahu's coasts, but the costs of the shelters are "prohibitive."

"If you cost out the canoe halau in Kailua, they seem excessively expensive," Hemmings said. "If the canoe paddlers are happy, I'm happy, but the cost should make everybody unhappy."

Mench, the Kane'ohe paddler who is a member of the Kahalu'u Neighborhood Board and a member of the city's vision team that is designing the Kahalu'u halau, said money could be saved by designing a modular system, with Hawaiian style architecture that can be used everywhere and expanded to meet each club's need. The city would save on design fees, estimated to cost $50,000 for the Kahalu'u halau.

Most are vision projects

The city also is ready to design halau for Nanakuli, Pokai Bay, Makaha, 'Ewa Beach, Hale'iwa and Ke'ehi Lagoon beach parks. All of the halau except Kailua and Ala Wai Neighborhood Park are vision projects.

Waimanalo Canoe Club was willing to build its own shelter two years ago at its own expense. But the group decided to use the vision process, which included $125,000 for material, and use a volunteer crew for construction.

Construction was to begin this year, but the material for the 1,300 square-foot boathouse was more than the amount allotted and the permit required completing construction in 45 days, an impossible task when most of the work had to be completed on weekends, said Scotty Reis-Moniz, club head coach.

The money for the project lapsed, but the mayor resubmitted the project into his supplemental budget this year with additional money to have a private contractor complete the halau for an estimated $500,000. Reis-Moniz said the cost was not a problem for the group.

"We're content that the project is moving forward," he said. "We will have a home base, and with that we can implement our Hawaiian cultural programs."

Reach Eloise Aguiar at eaguiar@honoluluadvertiser.com or 234-5266.