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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Sunday, July 21, 2002

All aboard! You can join efforts to put train on all of historic trail

By Robyn Blanpied

If the idea of riding a steam train from Hale'iwa to Ko Olina sounds like fun, how about riding one along the shores of Pearl Harbor from the USS Arizona through 'Ewa and up the Leeward Coast to Nanakuli?

The Hawaii Railway Society has tracks running from 'Ewa to Kahe Point. The goal of Friends of Pearl Harbor Historic Trail is to extend that route.

Advertiser library photo • April 28, 2001

That's the goal of the Friends of Pearl Harbor Historic Trail.

Right now, there's a bike and jogging trail on the OR&L right of way from 'Aiea to Waipahu and we're working to upgrade it, make it safer and more accessible, and extend it into Nanakuli. The Hawaii Railway Society already runs excursion trains every Sunday on part of the trail, from 'Ewa through Ko Olina to Kahe Point. But the grand plan is to bring back the train along the entire Historic Trail. This tourist train will stop at depots and sites along the trail, giving its riders an opportunity to explore communities.

Picture relaxing as the train carries you around the harbor, with views of Diamond Head on one side and the sun setting behind the Wai'anae Range on the other. You'll travel past lively shopping areas, wetlands alive with native birds, and scenes from Hawai'i's past, including fishponds, sugar mills and plantation villages.

Wave to the joggers and bicyclists — the local neighbors enjoying the greenway that the Historic Trail provides. Listen to longtime residents tell stories of the area's history. Plan on stopping for dinner at a restaurant overlooking the harbor. Sound like fun?

The trail can be the new attraction needed to bring visitors without generating urban sprawl or degrading our environment. With its length of 18.6 miles, it has room for urban attractions, quiet retreats and exciting historic sites. Using the train and bike/walking path reduces the need for large parking lots, intrusive tourist buses and other costly infrastructure.

This can be a way of encouraging sustainable revitalization of the Wai'anae/Leeward Coast areas while preserving the local character and heritage.

The feasibility study for the trail was done in an award-winning master plan developed under the auspices of local vision groups. This plan lays the framework for commercial redevelopment, train expansion, and cultural and environmental conservation.

The city government has a trail demonstration project under way on city land behind Waipahu High School. The state has contracted for the rebuilding of train/pedestrian bridges. The trail figures in state and city long-range transportation and Livable Communities plans and is a part of a larger system of bike paths for the region.

The new opportunities for business created by the trail will help raise the tax revenues needed to pay for its development. Similar projects, such as the San Antonio River Walk and LeClede's Landing in St. Louis, started with only a fraction of what the Pearl Harbor Historic Trail can offer. This has the potential to become an economic gold mine for Hawai'i, while preserving our way of life.

The Pearl Harbor Historic Trail began as a community initiative, and the Friends of Pearl Harbor Historic Trail was formed to ensure that communities adjoining the trail will help shape its future. We are actively seeking new ideas and members to make a trail/community that's economically prosperous and a pleasure to live and work in.

We invite you to join us in working to make the trail and the train a reality. You can reach the Friends at P.O. Box 2893, 'Aiea, HI 96701, or e-mail rowanbr@aol.com to be placed on our mailing list.

Robyn Blanpied is executive director of the Friends of Pearl Harbor Historic Trail.