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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Monday, December 8, 2003

UH, Paradise Park: an opportunity lost?

We're disappointed to learn that Gov. Linda Lingle is allowing the University of Hawai'i's purchase of Paradise Park, and its dreams of creating a research center there, to lapse.

"Once you purchase land," explained Lingle's tax director, Georgina Kawamura, "then it's buying new facilities, then it's programs and all the operations that need to go in it takes more money. Maintenance of the facility takes more money. The state is not fiscally able to make those kinds of commitments."

Well, yes. We never expected UH to buy rain forest in upper Manoa simply to admire it. We fully expected to see a viable and valuable research center emerge for the coordination of state, federal and private efforts to preserve Pacific island ecosystems.

There is nothing to suggest Lingle's action amounts to disapproval of the underlying concept. Indeed, a tropical rain forest research facility at Paradise Park would work perfectly with the nearby and well-established Lyon Arboretum.

It appears to be simply a matter of money. And there's no question that each step of that development would take money. But there's no suggestion that money will have to come from the state's already bare-bones treasury.

We're confident that all or much of its operations would have been supported by grants from participating organizations. The venture had already attracted a $9 million grant from the National Science Foundation.

Sure, money is tight at the state level. But what kind of future can Hawai'i look forward to if we're not willing to invest in it?

Beyond the opportunity for UH that has been lost at Paradise Park, we're concerned about the potential for far less appropriate uses for the 152-acre parcel.

The former tourist-oriented, exotic-bird exhibit and botanical garden didn't work, although large, noisy parrots now dart among the magnificent trees there.

The best long-term use of this parcel is what the university proposes.