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Ala Moana The People's Park Book


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A great history of Ala Moana - The People's Park Book. THE PEOPLE'S PARK
by Robert Weyeneth
Prepared for:
Department of Parks and Recreation

Published in: Government & Nonprofit
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Ala Moana The People's Park Book

  1. 1. ) ) DEPT. OF DESIGN aCONSTRuctiON ALA MOANA: i1T11~~r=::d~~- L~K:/~::f.'~-:n )~ ... F ..,;:nc:::n'o·~' "i, I I I f , , : I r i Ii 1 L I: 11: I· I ::: I 0: :1 "loU;,;., c' ~!JlJJlJv ~ L '~--=' i ~ " ------ ,' , .==c- E . ~"I ' ~ --2-~-:"' ! If 1 ~ 0 - - - - . . . .<t::::::--=I ·, • , : " I i I I • ~ I . 0 " - ' . '-'" I I I ' : I ; , ..:::, 1 ' , . ! , . - :::....... . ~ . , '-" " ' ' ' ' 0.;., • ., ••" ....-",...- """",/,...,,,1"""I ' I -- £' • .-- ~ '"~ THE PEOPLE'S PARK by RobertVVeyeneth Prepared for: Department of Parks and Recreation 1987
  2. 2. ) 1.0 2.0 3.0 4.0 5.0 6.0 7.0 CONTENTS Preface ••.••..•••... ......................................1 Origins of the Park: The 1920·s. ..........................4 1.1 1.2 1.3 Location ••••• ....................................... Acquisition •• ....................................... Site Development. .4 .5 .6 Designing the Park: The 1930·s •••••• .9 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 2.5 2.6 The The Landscape Architects' Plan ••••• ..................9 Implementing the Landscape Design ••• ·.............. The Architecture of Harry Sims Bent. ·.............. The Canal Bridge •••••• ·.....................2.3.1 2.3.2 2.3.3 2.3.4 The Roosevelt Portals. ·..................... The Sports Pavilion and Banyan Court. The Lawn Bowling Green ••••••••••••••••• ..... Boulder Concrete: The Aesthetic of Hard Times. The Social Context of Recreation ••••••••••••• .10 .13 .14 • 15 .17 .20 .22 .24 Completing the Unfinished Agenda of ,the 1930·s •••••• 26 Park in Wartime: The 1940·s••• ·.................... Creating a Beach Park: The 1950·s. •• 29 .30·..................... The Magic Island controversy: The 1960·s. ·..............• 33 Planning for the Future: The 1970·s •••••• ·...............37 Conclusion: The 1980·s •• .................................41 Notes •••• ......................... ....................•45 Appendix •••••••••••• .............. .....................47 Park Chronology •••• List Maps of Park Trees. and Plans ••••• ·...............................•• 48 ·...............................•• 51 ·...............................•• 53 Photographic Essay ............•..........•........... 64
  3. 3. LIST OF MAPS AND PLANS Map A: Ala Moana Park on the Island of Oahu •••••••••••••••••• 54 Map B: Landscape Plan by Richards & Thompson, 1932 ••••••••••• 55 Map C: Proposal by Lester McCoy, 1936 •••••••••••••••••••••••• 56 Map D: Ala Moana Park and City of Honolulu, 1941 ••••••••••••• 57 Map E: Proposal by Parks & Recreation, 1949 •••••••••••••••••• 58 Map F: Proposal by Henry J. Kaiser, 1954 ••••••••••••••••••••• 59 Map G: Map H: Map I: Map J: Proposal by Harbor Commissioners, 1956 •••••••••••••••• 60 Proposal by Belt Collins, 1961 •••••••••••••••••••••••• 61 Proposal by Wilson Okamoto, 1975 •••••••••••••••••••••• 62 Ala Moana Park & Magic Island Peninsula, 1987 ••••••••• 63
  4. 4. The pr~paration of this document was financed in part by the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966, Public Law 89-665, as amended, as administered by the National Park Service, United States Department of the Interior, through the Department of Land and Natural Resources, State of Hawaii. ROBERT R. WEYENETH Studies at the University environmental and urban history of urban parks in is Assistant Professor of American of Hawaii, where he teaches courses in history. He is writing a book on the the United States.
  5. 5. Preface with its mile-long beach set between views of Diamond Head to the east and the looming Koolau and Waianae mountain ranges to the north and west, Ala Moana Park seems at first glance to be one more example of the breath-taking natural scenery of the Hawaiian Islands. The white sand beach, offshore coral reef, and lawns dotted with palms, banyans, and flowering tropical trees make Ala Moana unquestionably one of the most exotic city parks in the united States. Surrounded today by downtown Honolulu, Ala Moana seems to be a piece of unspoiled Hawaii rescued from the encroaching street grid by far-sighted preservationists. In fact, however, Ala Moana Beach Park is entirely a man- made development. Its trees and shrubs are landscaping effects, arranged by the human hand, that have matured fifty years now. The park's oceanfront swimming hole has been carved from the fringing coral reef. The beach is the creation of hydraulic engineers, who at periodic intervals replenish the sand with imports from elsewhere on the island of Oahu. Even the site itself is a human invention, a tidal area filled by excavating the offshore reef. The passage of five decades has turned the park into a setting of incomparable natural beauty, but Ala Moana is what a geographer would call a "cultural" landscape. It is the product of engineering expertise and landscape design. The park is the crowning achievement of the golden age of Honolulu park-building during the 1930's, an attractive and func- 1
  6. 6. tional urban space created in Depression-era America that has withstood well the test of time. Unlike Kapiolani Park and its nouveau-riche builders fascinated by polo, horse-racing, and the Victorian landscape of leisure, Ala Moana was the product of the hard times of the thirties. From the beginning it was to be a park for all the people. It grew as a result of the massive federal experiment with public works projects during the Great Depression and survives as a monument to the ingenuity, imagina- tion, and perseverance of local park proponents. Today, in a period when budgets again constrain municipal building of Ala Moana Park reminds us of the limited resources creatively applied. governments, the possibilities of One can read the history of Hawaii over the last sixty years in the history of Ala Moana Park. The idea for a park on the site can be traced to the 1920's and an interest in "civic beautification" among socially prominent Honolulu women. One group particularly active in promoting the idea was the Outdoor Circle, an organization of generally affluent women, many the wives of leading business and political figures in the Territory of Hawaii. The Outdoor Circle enjoyed a degree of influence in municipal affairs that was unusual for women's organizations elsewhere in the United States prior to World War II, largely because of the territory's unique social structure. In Hawaii, an economy organized around plantation agriculture sustained a world of rigid class and racial distinctions. By the 1920's, the exporting of sugar and the building of Honolulu as the political and commercial capital of this world had elevated a tight-knit combination of sugar companies, land monopolists, and development 2
  7. 7. interests to dominance in island life. When the wives of the men who ran these enterprises embarked on the task of "municipal housekeeping" (a concern they shared with women in other American cities at the time), the Outdoor Circle emerged as a potent force in civic affairs. Conceived in the twenties, Ala Moana Park was born in the thirties, with Franklin Roosevelt's New Deal presiding as mid- wife. A couple of the New Deal's "alphabet soup" federal agen- cies provided the labor to establish the outlines of the modern park and complete its most architecturally significant features: the sports pavilion with its magnificent banyan garden, a lawn bowling green, the canal bridge, and the Waikiki entrance por- tals. In addition, relief labor constructed a small boat harbor and tennis courts, erected dressing rooms and showers, and planted the landscape. The recreational facilities ensured that Ala Moana would encourage a range of activities for those enjoy- ing their leisure and for those who found spare time thrust upon them by the unemployment of the Depression. Unlike the origins of Kapiolani Park, Ala Moana would be "the people's park." War in the forties, and Hawaii's important role in the Pacific theater, brought Honolulu's parks under temporary mili- tary jurisdiction. Following the attack on Pearl Harbor, Ala Moana was conscripted for duty as the site for a makeshift set of coastal fortifications. As the perception of danger passed in 1945, the wartime installations were dismantled, the landscape was restored, and the park was returned to public use. The fifties witnessed different pressures on park land. As 3
  8. 8. the jet age transformed the economy of the fiftieth state from agriculture to tourism, the pace of real estate development quickened, as floods especially on Oahu. Plane loads of tourists, as well of new residents, produced calls in the 1950's and 1960's to enlarge park facilities and to reshape the land into a satellite resort for Waikiki. While park acreage at Ala Moana was increased in the sixties, pressure to transform the new land into a hotel district was resisted, a remarkable achievement for a city (and a state) that have operated largely Obliviously to the risks of over-development. Over the years, the integrity of the park's original design has remained intact. This study will trace the history of Ala Moana from its origins in the 1920's to the present, with par- ticular attention on the creation and evolution of the park in the 1930's. Because the thirties design celebrates its fiftieth birthday in the 1980's, Ala Moana Park can now be considered for eligibility on the National Register of Historic Places. 1.0. Origins of the Park: The 1920's 1.1. Location. Ala Moana Park occupies a site of seventy-six acres, extending along the ocean for a mile and a quarter from the mouth of the Ala Wai Canal to Kewalo Basin (see maps A and D). It is approximately six hundred feet wide. Like most of the oceanfront real estate in downtown Honolulu today, the park is built on a coral reef. For this reason, the site has no known pre-contact or archaeological significance. 4
  9. 9. The historic shoreline in this part of Honolulu was consi- derably further inland than it is today, along what is now Ala Moana Boulevard. (The name "Ala Moana" means "ocean street.") A roadway, the predecessor of Ala Moana Boulevard, ran along this shoreline between the ocean and an area of wetlands that stretched almost to the present King street. Prior to the present age of ecology, the local citizenry referred to the wetlands as swamps and marshes. Originally it was called the Moana Park (literally "ocean park"). In 1947 the city recognized popular usage and renamed it Ala Moana Park. 1.2. Acquisition. Title to the future park site passed to the City and.County of Honolulu only in 1928, even though the city had been using a portion of the area as a garbage and refuse dump since the turn of the century. (The story is told that the city's incineration of refuse inspired local wags -- and a few gullible ship-board visitors to identify the plumes of smoke as Honolulu's active downtown volcano.) The site seems to have been among the lands of the Kingdom of Hawaii transferred by the Republic of Hawaii to the United States government after annexation. The area was deeded by the federal government to the Territory of Hawaii (25 October 1927) and then from the territory to the City and County of Honolulu (16 January 1928). The city received the site on the condition that the property "be used wholly as a public park or other public use of like nature, and upon ceasing to be so used as to the whole or any part thereof said property together with any and all additions, improvements and appurtenances shall 5
  10. 10. ) . revert to the Territory of Hawaii.- l 1.3. Site Development. The legislative history of the site suggests that federal transfer of title accommodated two local development projects: (1) the dredging of a ship channel th~ough the Ala Moana reef, to link the Ala Wai Canal with the ocean-access of the Kewalo Basin Channel and (2) the creation .of new real .estate by filling 9f the adjacent submerged lands with the excavated coral. Sentiment for these two enterprises inspired the territorial legislature to authorize the sale of $200,000 in bonds for a -reclamation pro- ject- at the reef and to request transfer of title to the from the United States (3 May 1927). Within six months of site this territorial request, President Calvin Coolidge signed an execu- tive order transferring seventy-eight acres of the Ala Moana reef. After the city acquired title in 1928, the Hawaiian Dred- ging Company, Ltd. received the contract to dredge the channel and fill the future park site. The work was completed in October 1930. The precise role of the Hawaiian Dredging Company and its tycoon owner, Walter Francis . Dillingham, in the legislative his- tory of the park is not cleatJ":but it seems to have been substan- tial. As the only dredging company in Hawaii at the time, Dil- lingham's business stood td profit from any excavation and fill project in the territory. In addition, Dillingham owned a large parcel of adjacent real estate (the site of the present Ala Moana Shopping Center), the value of which would increase if it bor- dered a park rather than the city dump. However, there is no 6
  11. 11. evidence in the city's land title records that the company deeded the site to the federal government in 1927 in expectation of securing a reclamation contract, as some park accounts have , l' d l.e • It is more likely-that the politically influential Dillingham encouraged territorial acquisition of the site and authorization of the $200,000 bond measure because he saw an opportunity to line up a lucrative government dredging contract and, at the same time, create an urban space of great public benefit. At work behind the scenes, no doubt, was Dillingham's wife, Louise Gaylord Dillingham, president of the Outdoor Circle (1929-31) and subsequently an important member of the city park board for over thirty years until her death in 1964. Filling of acreage on Ala Moana reef was good for the family business, as well as for the Dillingham reputation as patrons of the city's parks. Louise Dillingham's role in guiding the development of Ala Moana Park was considerable. The idea of a park in the area had been discussed in Honolulu since at least 1920 by public offi- cials, visiting municipal reformers, and local civic groups. Members of the Outdoor Circle had pressed a proposal for a park with the territorial governor as early as 1925. Through the twenties, Mrs. Dillingham was one of the park's most outspoken proponents. The benefits of a park on the reef were obvious, she asserted: "the dredging of Kewalo Basin, of reclaiming the land for bathing, boating, and establishing a system of parks and playgrounds with a tropically planted boulevard along the shore would indeed add greatly to the beauty of Honolulu." Through her presidency of the Outdoor Circle between 1929 and 1931 and her 7
  12. 12. membership on the city's Shade Tree Commission, a predecessor of the Honolulu Park Board, Louise Dillingham helped fashion some of the first ideas for the park's form. As the filling of the site progressed in 1929 and 1930, the commission increasingly turned its attention . to the design of the park. Although the Shade Tree Commission played a largely advisory role in municipal government in the 1920's, making recommendations on city-wide street plant- ings to the mayor and board of supervisors, it is clear that in these deliberations Mrs. Dillingham's ideas carried significant weight. Commission members, for example, adopted her proposal for a waterway "in the scheme of Park beautification," reasoning that park acreage occupied by water did not require the expensive maintenance that landscaped grounds did. 3 Through the activities of Louise Dillingham it is clear that the issue of civic beautification linked the socially prominent and the politically powerful. In the fall of 1930, for example, as the filling of the Moana park site neared completion, one leading citizen took it upon himself to write the territorial governor on the proper trees for the new park and its adjoining boulevard: coconut palms and royal ponciana, he suggested. In the absence of a single, centralized body of park commissioners charged with responsibility for municipal parks, the governor turned the matter over to Louise Dillingham. The issue of tree selection in city parks was not of great consequence in itself, but this instance does illustrate how, within the provincial scale of territorial life, Louise Dillingham was functioning informally as Ala Moana's advocate and first planner. 8
  13. 13. 2. Designing the Park: The 1930's 2.1. The Landscape Architects' Plan. Shortly after the creation of the Honolulu Park Board in 1931, the city employed professionals to plan the park. One of the first actions of the board, in July 1931, was to approve the designs of two landscape architects, Catherine Jones Richards and Robert Oliver Thompson, later Mr. and Mrs. Robert o. Thompson. The Richards and Thompson plan became the basis for the park's development in the thirties, although some of its details were modified in the course of the decade. Their proposals for the spatial arrangement of the landscape -- two lagoons and alter- nating areas of massed foliage and wide open spaces -- continue to delineate the contours of the park's design today (see map B). Richards and Thompson presented their plan to the public in a popular monthly magazine late in 1932. should be both aesthetic and functional. The park, they argued, On the one hand, it should be attractively landscaped: on the other it should provide a range of recreational opportunities "to handle the huge number of people wanting entertainment on holidays and over the week- 4 ends." As landscape architects, Richards and Thompson proposed a design for the park layout that included six tennis courts, three baseball fields, volley ball courts, a children's wading pool, a playground, picnic spots with outdoor grills, a bridle path linking Ala Moana and Kapiolani parks, a small boat harbor designed as a public alternative to private yacht clubs, and 9
  14. 14. clubhouses for local rowing clubs. The central architectural feature was to be an oceanfront recreational complex combining a dance pavilion, restaurant, and bath house, bordered on the mauka (mountain) side by a large sunken pool with fountain and allees (parallel rows) of banyan trees. Instead of a beach, Richards and Thompson proposed a shaded shoreline promenade. The setting for these structures was to be a tropical land- scape that expressed the cultural heritage of Hawaii. The two proposed lagoons, one at either end of the park, echoed Louise Dillingham's earlier suggestion of waterways to beautify the site and keep maintenance costs low. The eastern lagoon was to provide a setting for a "Hawaiian village" for municipal pageants: the western lagoon was to offer a "Japanese village" and teahouse. Chinese pagodas "with all the atmosphere needed for such" were planned for an oceanfront pier. 2.2. Implementing the Landscape Design. Some of this plan had been executed by 1932, when Richards and Thompson described it publicly. The lagoons had been dred- ged, along with a drainage canal to control the run-off from mountain showers toward the ocean at the site. Private donations had planted six hundred coconut palms and one hundred banyan trees, and the city had erected five "hau lanais." The park's thoroughfare had been laid out and graded, and a sprinkling system installed along the waterfront. The terrace on which the central recreational complex was to sit had been raised with retaining walls. Looking back from the perspective of the mid-thirties, the chairman of the Honolulu Park Board judged the contribution of 10
  15. 15. Richards and Thompson to have been significant. Its utility, Charles Lester McCoy thought, had been to provide "tentative studies and layouts" that permitted the city to begin the process of transforming newly filled land into attractive landscape, as soon as Depression labor became available: grading roads, con- structing sea and boundary walls, dredging the lagoons and drain- age canal, hauling topsoil, establishing a park nursery, and preliminary planting. with the Richards-Thompson plan in hand, McCoy had been able to begin roughing out the park as early as 1931, when the territorial legislature, municipal government, and private making One Thompson was to donations responded to the worsening economic crisis by unemployment relief funds available to the park board. might add to McCoy's assessment that the Richards- plan also established the framework in which the park grow in the thirties: the idea of a people's park that combined landscaped spaces with sport facilities. Ala Moana was to be a park open to community-wide use, offering places for a range of recreational activities, set amid green surroundings. While a number of specific features were not built, many were implemented: a recreation center ornamented by a formal garden, lagoons housing Hawaiian and Oriental culture zones, the boat harbor, and a link between Ala Moana and Kapiolani Park. The general emphasis on a self-contained park landscape with archi- tectural features, rather than a beach park opening to the ocean, was also to characterize development for two decades. Territorial relief funds enabled the city to start laying out the site in 1931, but it was federal assistance beginning in 11
  16. 16. 1933 that brought the park to an attractive, functional condi- tion. The Federal Employment Relief Administration (F.E.R.A.) and, briefly, the short-lived Civil Works Administration (C.W.A.) provided the resources for the park board to undertake a major construction program in the thirties. labor force reached 800-900 workers. At its peak, the daily As chairman of the Honolulu Park Board for ten years, Charles Lester McCoy presided over the creation of Ala Moana Park in the thirties, coordinating federal relief, the designs of professional planners, and the views of fellow board members like Louise Dillingham. A wealthy man with an interest in public service, McCoy had retired at age 42 from the wholesale grocery business and moved with his wife to Honolulu from Peoria, Illi- nois in 1919. Between 1931 and 1941, he chaired the newly created park board at a salary of one dollar per year. Remem- bering McCoy's travails trying to build parks in the midst of national depression, one former associate recalled that nat times his dreams of the beautiful outran the limitation of the practi- cal; and his favorite 'child,' Ala Moana park, never developed as he hoped it would. nS Urban critic Lewis Mumford also knew McCoy from their col- laboration in the thirties. He, as well as anyone, understood the circumstances that resulted in McCoy's resignation as chairman of the park board in 1941. Mumford met McCoy on a vacation visit to Hawaii in 1938 and was subsequently hired to write a report for the park board on the relation of park development to Honolulu's future. Some of Mumford's recommendations in the final report were so controversial -- particularly the proposal for a sweeping 12
  17. 17. reorganization of park administration -- that McCoy felt obliged to resign from the park board. Mumford recalled McCoy as "a public-spirited Tory who lived by his principles:" On some of the most fundamental matters of religion and politics we were completely at odds; but men of principle have somet-hing important in common even when their princi- ples differ: each knows on which side of the line he is fighting and each knows the extent of their common ground. A little before settling down to the final drafting of this report I sought to find out from Mr. McCoy the sort of topics he thought should be covered, to be sure he accepted my own interpretation of my duties. His answer should be engraved in every administrator's heart: "When I ask a professional man for advice," he said quietly, "I don't want him to tell me what is in my mind: I want to find out what is in his." Needless to say, the man who spoke these words printed the report without challenging a word in it: and he loyally circulated it and backed it up. Eventually he resigned his chairmanship when my own drastic proposals for the reorganizat~on of the Park Board found no favor among his colleagues. In spite of these frustrations during his tenure on the Honolulu Park Board, McCoy was eulogized after his death in 1942 as the "virtual founder of Honolulu's modern park system." A commemorative plaque at Ala Moana tells visitors that the park was "envisioned and created" by the "enthusiasm and efforts" of 7 McCoy. 2.3. The Architecture of Harry Sims Bent. To make good use of the promise of federal assistance, Lester McCoy hired an architect in 1933, Harry Sims Bent, to supplement the landscape proposals that Richards and Thompson had suggested two years previously. The park site was divided into fifteen or so "construction units," and the architect was asked to prepare complete working drawings for each unit. Bent's blueprints, together with the federal relief labor, combined to produce by the end of the decade a usable urban space with a 13
  18. 18. distinctive architectural identity. Bent's influence was enormous and his talents considerable. 8 Bent is not well known today, but he was considered one of the most creative and important architects in Honolulu in the 1920's and 1930's. He had come to Honolulu about 1927 to supervise construction of the Academy of Arts and subsequently designed a number of public buildings and private residences. Bent was also responsible for virtually all of the plans implemented by the Honolulu Park Board in the thirties, and these designs remain some of his best work. It is Bent's work that today give Ala Moana Park its unique character, exemplified in the whimsical canal bridge (completed in 1934), the portals at the Waikiki entrance (named for President Franklin Delano Roosevelt after he dedicated them in 1934), the sports pavilion and banyan garden (completed in 1937), and the lawn bowling green (completed in 1939). In addition to his work at Ala Moana, Bent designed the layout and structures of a number of smaller parks in Honolulu, including Mother Waldron Playground, Kawananakoa Playground, the Lanikila Park comfort station, Kalihi-Waena Playground, Haleiwa Beach Park, the wall at Hauula Beach Park, Ala Wai Clubhouse, the park service center near Kapiolani Park, and a design for the Kalakaua Recreational Center. Many of his park designs combined the angular zig-zag motifs associated with the Art Deco style with the curved surfaces typical of Streamline Moderne. 2.3.1. The Canal Bridge. Bent's first design in Ala Moana Park was for an equestrian 14
  19. 19. bridge to span the park's drainage canal. Seen from the side, the basic shape of the canal bridge consists of two joined half- circles. The two half-circles screen the single arch of the path carried by the bridge. The curved motif is reinforced by the four arched planes of the bridge walls, the half cylinder mould- ing which tops them, and the half-circle grille openings which pierce them. The forms that buttress the bridge in the center and at the sides are also rounded. Viewed less literally, the arched forms and inclined ap- proach can seem like a humpbacked animal with long snout and tail, momentarily at rest. The bridge buttresses resemble limbs and suggest to the imaginative passerby that the creature might actually rise and walk away whenever it wanted. While we have no clues to what inspired Harry Sims Bent to construct so whimsical a bridge, a spirit of playfulness is clearly intended. The ele- ments of surprise and fun evident in the canal bridge became hallmarks of Bent's park architecture. The bridge was completed in 1934 as a C.W.A. project. The undated blueprint at the Department of Parks and Recreation is entitled "Bridle Path Bridges," suggesting that more than one structure was planned. 2.3.2. The Roosevelt Portals. The Roosevelt Portals provide a grand entrance into Ala Moana Park at its Waikiki end. Here two central openings are joined to form a single imposing gateway. To the sides of this central entry structure, two sets of outer portals mark the beginnings of the scalloped perimeter wall. The height of the fifteen-foot portals make them reminiscent of a triumphal arch, 15
  20. 20. ) although there is one intriguing difference. Unlike most trium- phal arches that have arched openings and squared corners, the Roosevelt Portals have rectangular openings and arched side ele- vations. The combination of curved and angular shapes, scalloped walls, and wedge indentations at the Roosevelt portals is seen in many of Bent's other park designs. Ornamentation is limited to geometric motifs. A series of half cylinders top the portals. Prism shapes line the lintels of the openings. The central niches on both the mauka and makai sides of the central structure are fluted. Projecting and reces- sed planes are combined with concave and convex curves. Low octagonal piers, joined by walls decorated by vertical half- cylinders, bound the elevated curved plaza in front of the entry structure. The random pattern and rough surface of the coral stone paving is a pleasing contrast to the geometric and smooth surfaces of the concrete portals. Harry Sims Bent designed the portals and a system of side- walks and roads so that visitors entered the park through one of the portal's openings. Today this circulation pattern has been disrupted. Bent left a generous forty feet between the central and outer portals for automobile traffic. Because all traffic in and out of the park is now routed on the west side of the central portals due to the realignment of Ala Moana Boulevard and its bridge, the triangular island that Bent designed as the setting for the central portals no longer remains, compromising the formal axial symmetry of the original plan. Additional concrete paving now extends beyond the original coral stone of the central 16
  21. 21. plaza. The road that once exited the park now ends abruptly just beyond the portals. The scalloped walls that adjoin the outer portals allow planting space within their concave recesses. This vegetation, together with the sectional nature of the wall, the vertical wedge indentations, and the recessed moulded curves along the top of the central section of each scallop, break up the long mass of the wall. The plantings, as well as the vistas framed by the portals, offer a preliminary view of the park inside. In effect, Bent's design welcomes people to the park. The portals were built as a F.E.R.A. project and were for- mally dedicated in 1934 during a visit by President Roosevelt to Honolulu. The undated blueprint labelled nEast Portal n suggests that park officials planned gates at the park's western entrance as well. 2.3.3. The Sports Pavilion and Banyan Court. The simple concrete exterior walls of the sports pavilion do not suggest the exotic richness of the banyan court hidden behind its walls. The banyan court is probably the best-kept secret in Honolulu's parks today: it is also perhaps Harry Sims Bent's most noteworthy design. The sports pavilion and banyan court were officially com- pleted in 1937, although much of the sports pavilion had been finished somewhat earlier, by 1935. The pavilion itself was designed to be a recreation center, offering rooms for crafts and games and, across the courtyard, locker facilities for men and women. Inside, artist Robert Lee Eskridge painted two wall-size murals depicting the Hawaiian makahiki (sports festival). Tennis 17
  22. 22. courts outside the pavilion were designed, ingeniously and sur- prisingly effectively, to share a common wall with the tranquil spaces of the interior courtyard. The courtyard itself consists of six intricately detailed stone planters (four contain banyan trees today), surrounded by exotically shaped reflecting pools. The character of the banyan court is different from the rest of Bent's park designs because its motifs are neither Art Deco nor Streamline Moderne. Commen- tators have variously described the courtyard architecture as Indian, Persian, and eclectic. Bent himself saw the design as having essentially a nPacific n inspiration: The idea for the character of the banyan garden came about through a series of discussions between Mr. McCoy and myself. We were looking for a solution that could be ap- plied to the enclosed rectangular space that would reflect a flavor of the Pacific basin background. During one of these discussions Mr. McCoy produced a battered postcard, col- lected on one of his tours of the Far East, showing a rem- nant of an old Balinese garden, wherein stone tree boxes were used adjacent to shaded reflection pools. This germ of an idea was adopted for its suitability and character and also because of its simplicity and the fact that it seemed to offer a mode of construction that would fit in with our labor-material ratio. With that vague prototype ~s a clue, I proceeded to design the garden as it now stands. Plans for the courtyard evolved over the mid-thirties, even it seems up to the time of actual construction. Park blueprints early in 1934 show paddle tennis courts on the site that became the banyan court. Lewis Mumford mentions that one version of the plans called for a restaurant set in a formal garden. The un- dated blueprint for the nTennis Pavilion Gardens n shows other differences from today's banyan court, apparently because some last-minute changes (not reflected on the plans) were added during the construction phase. 18
  23. 23. On Bent's plans which survive, no mention is made of the low-relief sculptures on the courtyard walls nearest the sports pavilion. Only benches are shown in these areas, and the layout of the walls is quite different from what was eventually built. These marble sculptures were , the work of Marguerite Blasingame and depict stylized Hawaiian figures. On the mauka wall are a male and female Hawaiian, kneeling back-to-back, playing nose flutes: on the makai side is a similar pair carved in a sitting position, with arms and face touching. Figures of Hawaiians playing traditional games are also present in the coral stone flagging of the passages of the sports pavilion. One blueprint for the "Sports Lanai" shows herringbone brick was intended for the paving of these passages, rather than the colored slate actually used. Minor subsequent changes to Bent's plan include installation of doors between the piers of the pavilion, as well as addition of less aesthetic elements like a telephone and exposed plumbing on the curved corner of the building. While plans show "split Pilgrim shakes" on the central gabled-roof section of the pavil- ion, it is now tiled. The most significant change in the original design of the banyan court and sports pavilion occurred in the early 1970's, when the McCoy Pavilion was added to the Diamond ' Head side of the courtyard. Construction of this complex of assembly rooms, lanais, and offices removed several structures from the thirties: two sets of locker rooms, a practice tennis court, and a curving zig-zag wall separating these facilities from the banyan court. 19
  24. 24. When Lester McCoy's widow, Hazel Corning McCoy died in 1968, she bequeathed $1.2 million the largest gift ever given the city for construction of a pavilion in Ala Moana Park as a memorial to her husband. The McCoy Pavilion, designed by Charles J. W. Chamberlain and completed in 1975, is a sympathetic addition that does blend well with the older sports pavilion, even though its placement destroyed some of the original historical fabric of the banyan court. 2.3.4. The Lawn Bowling Green. Constructed in 1939, the lawn bowling green was the last of Harry Sims Bent's designs for Ala Moana Park. It remains today the only lawn bowling green in Honolulu. The green is a raised square lawn area of eight lanes, enclosed by a wide coral stone walkway and a five-foot decorative cement brick wall. The corners of the brick wall are rounded, and inside each curve are brick benches topped with tile, very similar to those in Mother Waldron Playground, a Bent-designed park completed in 1937. The brick piers of the four gates were designed with projections and indentations to add interest to these points of entry. The curved geometric design of the gates contrasts with the rectangular lines of the brick piers. The original pergola has been enclosed and enlarged to serve now as a clubhouse, locker room, and storage area. Lawn bowling is an import to Hawaii and newcomers have been largely responsible for supporting the game in Honolulu. The park board built the green with city funds on the suggestion of an Australian doctor who had moved to Honolulu and established a lawn bowling club. The green was completed after six months of 20
  25. 25. construction in May 1939. Neglected during World War II, a portion of the the site was later used for a children's museum. In the 1960's interest in the sport was again rekindled when a mainland visitor prodded the park department into extensively renovating the area in 1967. Lawn bowling is not as simple to playas it looks. The object of the game is to roll a lop-sided wooden ball (called a bowl) toward a small white ball (called a jack) placed at the center of play. Each player tries to get his or her ball as close to the jack as possible, earning points based on proximity. An average game lasts about two hours. The game was invented in Great Britain in the thirteenth century and is popular today primarily with retired people, who enjoy the quiet dignity of its leisurely pace. The challenges of rolling lop-sided balls are compounded immensely if the playing surface is not perfectly level and, consequently, bowlers spend a good part of ' their non-playing hours worrying about lawn maintenance. Apparently as early as the thirties, the original design presented bowlers with some problems, because the rounded corners of the perimeter wall were intended as planters for trees, and the spreading roots from the planters threatened the playing field. In the early 1970's, bowlers discovered the playing surface varied as much as three and a half inches from one side of the green to the other and set about levelling the lawn using sophisticated surveying instru- ments. Because the expenses of maintaining a perfectly level lawn are enormous, the private Honolulu Lawn Bowls Club has 21
  26. 26. assumed responsibility for maintenance of the green since 1981. 2.4. Boulder Concrete: The Aesthetic of Hard Times. Ala Moana Park was the creation of the hard times of the Depression, and nowhere are these historical origins more evident than in the erection of the park's walls and terraces. The story of their construction so closely mirrors the growth of the park as a whole that it would not be too much of an exaggeration to say that these modest rock walls symbolize the successful strug- gle to create the park in the midst of national depression. While territorial and federal emergency assistance provided the labor that made park development possible, from the beginning funds themselves were limited. As a consequence, Bent and McCoy had to devise construction methods that required only minimum outlays for materials and tools and that permitted use of inex- perienced and unskilled relief labor. The solution was a tech- nique called boulder concrete construction. The process saved money by using indigenous materials and could be easily learned by people unfamiliar with the building trades. In boulder concrete construction, a thin gruel of concrete was poured into wooden forms packed solid with boulders of coral and lava rock. Lester McCoy estimated that use of the coral and lava stone as filler saved one-fourth to one-third of the cost of regular concrete construction, because the park board simply collected the rock debris from its properties. The walls were given shape by a system of removable, repeating wood forms. Success in constructing solid walls with nicely squared corners lay, first, in concocting a concrete glue sufficiently thin to fill the voids around the boulders and, second, in tamping vigor- 22
  27. 27. ously the mixture poured into the forms. Harry Sims Bent acknow- ledged that the shortage of building materials profoundly af- fected his designs: There was some ignorant criticism at the time on the score of the massive type of construction carried out. The critics did not know or care that this was mandatory because the only type of construction possiBle under the material limitations was "boulder concrete." The boulder concrete process produced sturdy, functional constructions, exemplified well in Ala Moana's central terrace area with its pair of pergolas, constructed early in the thir- ties. The rough concrete walls with their exposed rock are unfinished with stucco at the central terrace, and they strike the casual visitor as suitably rustic features for a park set- ting, their unsurprising crudeness expressing the distinctly rural character of the surroundings. In more suitably formal locations in the park, like the walls at the Roosevelt Portals, the boulder concrete is finished with a layer of stucco painted white to hide its humble origins. with the passage of time, the boulder concrete walls and terraces have even taken on an aesthetic appeal that transcends their historic importance as reminders of the park's Depression origins. While it was a construction technique intended to avoid the "architectural embellishment and decoration" that added con- siderably to the material costs of a job, even in the thirties park officials sensed some of the subsequent appeal of their work. A passage in one of Lester McCoy's reports, perhaps drafted by Harry Sims Bent, makes this case well: In keeping with this simplified system of construction the architectural design of the various units has resolved it- 23
  28. 28. self logically into a simple interpretation of the plastic character inherent in a poured system of construction. No attempt has been made to push the designs along any stylis- tic paths or grooves, nor on the other hand to deliberately seek novelties. The sensible course has seemed to be the one with the least number of pre-conceived notions. Design studies have in each case started from simple, thoroughly considered plans, with all practical arrangements and re- quire-ments established. From this point the attention of the designer has been focused on the qualities of mass, proportion, scale, fenestration and the decorative effect of light and shade as produced by contrasting planes and con- tours. Under the brilliant sunlight of Hawaii the possi- bilities of striking and interesting effects through the play of light and shadow through changes of planes is un- limited. To give interest and texture to the large plain wall areas the form marks of the poured walls are left unconcealed. The exposed concrete surfaces are given a light wash of Oyster white stucco, which forms an effective color contrast with the colorful planting of thellslands and the brillant Lsic] azure tints of sea and water. As much as any park feature, boulder construction stands as a monument to the moment in time when the park was created, an imaginative response to pressing practical considerations. Through the use of indigenous materials and simple building techniques, park officials were able to stretch scant resources and create architecture whose minimalist design symbolizes well the aesthetic of hard times. 2.5. The Social Context of Recreation. Government sought to produce sturdy, functional people, as well, during the Depression. On the one hand, the building of parks and playgrounds was intended to provide recreational out- lets for people enjoying their leisure and for those forced by unemployment to contend with spare time. On the other hand, public recreation -- if it were "wholesome" was also supposed to build better citizens. One of the themes that ties together the history of city parks in the united States is the interest in using urban space to effect social change. In this respect, the 24
  29. 29. origins of Ala Moana were no exception to the national pattern. Throughout the 1930's, the Honolulu Park Board reaffirmed the social purposes of its park planning. people," its report for 1938 announced. "Our parks are for "They are conceived, designed, built, maintained for one single purpose -- to enrich the life of people." Toward this end, Ala Moana Park was to be the people's park, providing recreational space and facilities tor "all classes of the whole community." As part of the process of enriching individual lives, offi- cials hoped to build a sense of community through the parks. In particular they hoped to revive "lost" island traditions for present-day citizens to share with the largely displaced native Hawaiians. Ala Moana Park, for example, was to have a "Hawaiian Village" of grass huts on the shores of the park's eastern lagoon to stimulate interest in polynesian arts and crafts. The con- struction of the Ala Wai Rowing Clubhouse on a proposed parkway between Ala Moana and Kapiolani parks was intended to resurrect a sport "in imminent danger of dying out."12 In addition, Ala Moana Park was to play an important social- izing and acculturating role in the lives of its visitors, parti- cularly its native Hawaiian and recent immigrant users. Lester McCoy pointed to the "complex racial mixture and the extreme congestion that prevails in many parts of the city" to argue that Honolulu had perhaps the greatest "social need" for "wholesome" park and recreational facilities of any city in the United States in 1936. "The local economic structure," McCoy continued, "is not suited to quick absorbtion [sic] of the oncoming generation 25
  30. 30. in useful employment and the resulting gap places an unusual burden on civic, social and recreational agencies." The encour- agement of Polynesian arts and crafts at Ala Moana's "Hawaiian Village," for example, was intended "to provide a practical outlet for social and welfare activities among this element of the population." In short, in the minds of thirties planners, parks had an important social mission: the task of assimilation in a culturally diverse city.13 It ought to be mentioned in passing that the actual use of urban parks often failed to conform with the expectations of planners and park officials. Ala Moana Park clearly provided a number of recreational outlets, and Honolulu's diverse population no doubt mixed in the park, especially after Ala Moana's major attractions took shape toward the end of the decade. Neverthe- less, it should be acknowledged that the park could also be the setting for the expression of social antagonisms. A rape in the newly created park quickly escalated in the subsequent criminal proceedings into one of the territory's most notorious trials, because of the racial and class tensions it exposed. The Massie Case of 1931 -- initially called the Ala Moana Case by the press -- suggested that parks divided as well as united communities. Motives of social reform may have animated the thinking of park planners in the thirties, but parks alone could by no means eradicate the tensions of the modern city. 2.6. Completing the Unfinished Agenda of the 1930's. In an informal report in 1936, Lester McCoy described the development of the park so far and the plans for the future (see map C).14 It was a story of progress, he asserted, by which "the 26
  31. 31. once formless and unsightly dump has taken on the form and char- acter of a real modern park." To make his case, McCoy could point to the range of projects either completed or near comple- tion. In addition to the Bent-designed canal bridge, Roosevelt portals, sports pavilion, banyan court, and bowling green, McCoy could boast about the landing and docking facilities of the yacht and boating center (the site of the present Ala Wai Yacht Har- bor), the Oriental Lagoon with landscaping "in the characteristic Chinese and Japanese manner," and the Hawaiian Lagoon "featuring native palms and plants." It is these landscaping and architec- tural features that represent the park's legacy from the 1930's. The report is particularly illuminating for what the park board hoped to build but did not have the funds to implement in the thirties. On the drawing boards in 1936 were plans for a "central r~creation unit" with a 4000-seat outdoor auditorium and stage set amid promenades and plazas, a municipal aquarium, a "village" of grass huts "harking back to the atmosphere of old Hawaii," pergolas and a promenade at Kewalo Basin for local fishermen, and gates at the western entrance. The park still has no portals at its western gate, and the park board never land- scaped Kewalo Basin (the territorial governor withdrew land at the Kewalo end of the park for harbor use in 1949). But the "Hawaiian Village" of Ulu Mau was constructed in Ala Moana Park in 1948, and park brochures in the 1950's were advertising its "authentic grass huts" as must-see sights "for island visitors," along with the Oriental Garden and the banyan court. I5 A new aquarium was built in the early 1950's but placed in Kapiolani 27
  32. 32. Park. The former sports pavilion (enlarged with a major addition in the early 1970's and renamed the McCoy Pavilion) today func- tions as the community center envisioned in the grand "central recreation unit" of the thirties' plan. The thirties planners envisioned Ala Moana as part of a park and parkway system for the city, and this design has largely been realized, as well. The city acquired the land on the mauka side of the Ala Wai Canal for park purposes in 1933, and Lester McCoy set about developing plans for a landscaped boulevard joining Ala Moana and Kapiolani parks. He planned for a "useful modern Park and Boulevard system extending for a total of over five miles, providing a varied assortment of sport and recreational facili- ties." Although McCoy's proposal for a boulevard was never constructed along the mauka side of the Ala Wai, as he envisioned it, the link between the parks was realized two other ways. Today, the Ala Wai Golf Course and Ala Wai Field (with its rowing clubhouse designed by Harry Sims Bent in 1936) connect Ala Moana and Kapiolani parks on the mauka side with a wide expanse of park land. The Ala Wai Boulevard (with its adjacent promenade) pro- vides a parkway on the makai (ocean) side. Finally, there is some reason to believe that Ala Moana Park is a local success story that defied the national experience with parks and playgrounds in the thirties. In a recent study of The Public Landscape of the New Deal 16 , designer Phoebe Cutler argues that efforts to federalize public recreation during the Depres- sion produced parks characterized by "the New Deal traits of utility, standardization, and austerity." In the rush to take advantage of federal relief in the national emergency, park 28
  33. 33. officials too often sacrificed quality to quantity, she main- tains, building great numbers of spare and sober recreational facilities, few with designs of nlasting dignity." If this generalization is sound, then the Honolulu parks are the excep- tions to the rule. Clearly, the administrative efforts of Lester McCoy and the architectural talents of Harry Sims Bent make Ala Moana Park a treasure from the thirties. 3.0. The Park in wartime: The 1940's The city's parks were conscripted by the military during the second world war. A military officer assumed control of the parks board, and a number of parks, like Ala Moana, were con- verted into makeshift coastal fortifications. As Hawaii braced itself for a second Pearl Harbor, gun emplacements, magazines, barracks, and barbed wire fences sprouted in the park. Trees were generally left standing, as they served well as natural camouflage, but smaller plants and lawns usually did not survive the wartime construction and use. When the perception of danger passed and the war in the Pacific began to wind down, military authorities attempted to maintain jurisdiction over Ala Moana in particular. They requested that the park be converted into an army air force rest and recuperation center. The military-controlled park board approved the request, on condition that the army facility be permitted for only one year and that it be confined to only half the park. However, in March 1945, the city's board of supervisors refused to consider an extension of military jurisdiction. 29
  34. 34. When the public was again welcome at Ala Moana in January 1946, visitors were shocked at the condition of the park. While authorities had ordered the removal of wartime installations and the repair of roads and sidewalks, the lawns and shrubbery could not be so quickly restored. As a consequence, the Board of Public Parks and Recreation had to weather a storm of criticism for the conditions citizens discovered. In response, the board's annual report for 1947 struck a rather defensive note, as it tried to explain to an impatient public that "camouflage can be painted out, barbed wire and bomb shelters removed, but nothing can hasten the recovery of living things which have been neglected for years." Park officials were hampered by postwar problems of locating everything from trucks to operating lawnmowers, as well as funds for staffing. It was a slow process to restore the parks to their pre-war condition, but the return of peacetime priorities and budgets eventually accomplished the task. By 1949, the annual report was bravely announcing, "Honolulu's parks are green again." And, within fairly short order, a number of new features were introduced into Ala Moana Park in particular: the Hawaiian village of Ulu Mau opened in 1948, the oriental Lagoon was remodelled after 1950, and a children's center was added to the sports pavilion in 1954. 4.0. Creating a Beach Park: The 1950's One major postwar improvement at Ala Moana was the construc- tion of the beach so popular today. It is important to remember 30
  35. 35. , that Moana Park was not built as a "beach park.n Prior to the 1950's, Ala Moana had no swimming beach and few facilities for swimmers. In fact, swimming was discouraged because of the presence of two nearby sewer outfalls. More fishermen than swimmers probably made use of the oceanfront at Ala Moana. Local people often erected modest wooden fishing stands in the water beyond the park's seawall prior to construction of the swimming beach. For the most part, though, Ala Moana was a place for outdoor recreation but not really ocean or beachfront sports. In the thirties and forties, the park encouraged visitors to look inward toward its grounds and structures, rather than outward toward the ocean. One could gaze at the Pacific from the park, of course, but actual use of the ocean was constrained by the presence of a seawall, which symbolically and practically separated landscape from seascape. Initially, the waters off the park belonged to boats rather than swimmers and fishermen. The park, afterall, had been created in the late 1920's out of a simultaneous effort to dredge an offshore ship channel (see map D). The channel in front of the park permitted boats access to the ocean via the Kewalo Basin exit, but this purpose became obsolete after 1951, when a direct ocean entrance was dredged for the Ala Wai boat harbor. In the meantime, population growth in postwar Hawaii had already made clear the need for greater beach access in the densely congested downtown district, which Ala Moana served. As a consequence, plans were made to reroute the sewer lines and 31
  36. 36. accommodate the needs of swimmers. In 1952 the territory built a jetty that prevented the polluted waters of the Ala Wai Canal from entering the channel off Ala Moana. Between 1954 and 1955, a territorial public works project filled part of the old ship- ping channel to raise a platform on which a beach could be con- structed. The present beach came into existence in June 1955, after almost 55,000 cubic yards of sand was imported for the beach from Oahu's leeward coast. To provide for the thousands of swimmers attracted to the new beach, the present pair of dressing room and shower facilities on either side of the McCoy Pavilion was constructed between 1959 and 1961, replacing the rest rooms designed by Harry Sims Bent. Lifeguard towers were added in 1969. In the decades that followed, this artificial beach proved immensely unstable. under natural conditions, the sand supplied to a beach and eroded from it are in equilibrium. The position and size of a beach are affected by seasonal variations in wave action and sediment load, as well as by general weather patterns. The small beach at Ala Moana before the 1920's was probably quite stable, being protected from significant wave action by the wide shallow reef offshore. Dredging of the boat channel after 1928, though, disrupted the pattern of sand moving across the reef to resupply the beach, because the man-made chasm effectively cap- tured the migrating sand. Since there was no longer a natural mechanism to replenish the beach created in 1955, periodic beach restoration projects must be undertaken at Ala Moana. In 1976, twenty years after the beach was first built, the dredged coral fill of the underlying 32
  37. 37. platform became exposed, and the entire beach had to be recon- structed. For the job, 30,000 cubic yards of sand were brought to Ala Moana from a fossil beach ridge at Mokuleia on the north 17 shore of Oahu. 5.0. The Magic Island Controversy: The 1960's The sandy beach was one of two major postwar changes at Ala Moana Park. The second major development occurred in the early 1960's, when a peninsula was built on the reef at the eastern end. Both changes increased park acreage, but neither has al- tered substantially the design within the original park (see map J) • Today the man-made peninsula is popularly known as Magic Island. Its thirty-six acres are a welcome addition adjacent to the crowded municipal park, since they provide a well-landscaped, spectacularly situated setting for hundreds of visitors to pic- nic, swim, and jog. Ironically, though, the plan in 1961 that created Magic Island very nearly demolished the original park and its thirties design. Initially, the peninsula was conceived and built as the site for a resort complex to expand Waikiki, not as a public park. Only after heated controversy was it set aside exclusively for recreation. The idea of offshore development appealed both to park officials anxious to expand beach facilities near the downtown area and to development interests looking to enlarge the Waikiki hotel district, which was hemmed in by the ocean, the canal, and two public parks. In the immediate postwar years, city planners 33
  38. 38. and private developers debated the possibilities of a massive "reclamation" project to create new real estate. A stream of reports examined the feasibility of dredging the reef between Diamond Head and Kewalo Basin. One study in 1949 suggested building an offshore island as one way to "improve" Waikiki Beach. The park board endorsed the idea of a new island off Ala Moana Park as a way to increase significantly the park's size (see map E). Implicit in the proposal was the assumption that "reclaimed" land was to be for recreational use. Development interests had other ideas, though. In 1954, industrialist Henry J. Kaiser proposed an offshore resort rather than a public park. Kaiser urged the territory to acquire title to the reef and then lease the submerged land to the highest bidder to develop a major tourist center. Kaiser himself pro- posed spending $50 million to create a "Magic Island" of hotels, theaters, and swimming pools (see map F). Two years later, in 1956, the board of harbor commissioners and the chamber of commerce proposed moving Ala Moana Park to an offshore island and selling the old park for hotel and apartment buildings (see map G) • The campaign for statehood altered the terms of discussion and, as a consequence, plans for the Ala Moana reef. Statehood in 1959 stimulated debate about Hawaii's future economy, with important implications for the Magic Island site, which the Territory of Hawaii had formally acquired from the federal gov- ernment in 1958. Support coalesced for commercial development of Ala Moana reef, as sentiment grew that tourism offered a source 34
  39. 39. of revenues and jobs that might offset declines in the sugar and pineapple industries. In 1959 the state contracted with a local engineering firm for a plan to reclaim the reef and develop a tourist resort. The report by Belt, Collins & Associates was issued in 1961. The Comprehensive Plan: Ala Moana Reef became the blueprint for the construction of the present Magic Island in the following year • • The Belt Collins engineers planned reef reclamation and develop- ment with two chief objectives in mind: (1) "expansion of public beach-park recreation for the people of Oahu" and (2) "approp- riate resort hotels to supplement the Waikiki district." The plan (see map H) recommended creation of two peninsulas and an island: a peninsula along the Ala wai boat harbor, an extension of the existing peninsula at Kewalo Basin, and a crab-shaped island in between the two peninsulas, to be called Magic Island. (As the story turned out, only the eastern peninsula was built, and the name Magic Island has corne to be attached, somewhat inappropriately, to this spit.) A system of roadways and bridges was to link the proposed island with the eastern peninsula. Belt Collins suggested three different configurations for the 120 acres of new land: exclusive recreational use (which would have almost tripled the length of public beach in the Ala Moana area), heavy resort development (seven hotels), and an uneasy alliance of public park and five hotels. The engineers recommended the latter proposal as a "compromise," arguing that private resort construction could finance the public outlays for reclamation and park development. In this scheme, hotels were to be built on the reclaimed eastern peninsula and a new park on the 35
  40. 40. island, with most of Ala Moana Park converted to parking lots. The state legislature approved plans to build the eastern-most peninsula as "phase one," and Henry J. Kaiser completed it in 1962 at a cost of $3 million. The implications of resort development for .. the integrity of the original design of Ala Moana Park were unimportant to policy makers at the time. The Belt Collins master plan of 1961 envi- sioned preserving the park's banyan court but converting most of the remaining site into huge parking lots, on the assumption that the new offshore island could "replace" the lost park. Lost, too, would be the vista of ocean and surf from the park, to be replaced by a view of the new island and the hotel-studded penin- sula. The plan to construct the two peninsulas and island repre- sented business as usual for Honolulu. "Reclaiming" submerged lands to invent valuable real estate was an historic pattern of urban growth in the city. In some ways, the offshore park and resort development was simply a 1960's elaboration of the origi- nal 1920's reclamation project. Both represented efforts to beautify the city and enhance the local economy through the imaginative rearrangement of nature. From this perspective, the original landscape and architecture of Ala Moana Park were essen- tially irrelevant. Afterall, the park hardly qualified as a preserve of untouched nature. It was an artificially created open space: the product of the forces that now proposed to trans- form it in response to the new imperatives of the sixties. When almost a decade of public controversy followed the 36
  41. 41. construction of Magic Island in 1962, it became clear that large number of citizens had reconsidered the value of massive coastal development. In the course of the sixties, three factors encour- aged reservations about an offshore resort. Generally prosperous conditions dampened earlier fears about the health of the local economy. Growing concern about the quality of urban life heightened concern about the project's environmental conse- quences. And, finally, backlash against the state's increasing dependence on tourism raised questions about whether the develop- ment might benefit visitors (and the tourist industry) more than residents. controversy complex on As one subsequent assessment concluded, that accompanied the proposal for a "the public hotel-resort Magic Island focused attention on the tremendous 18 pressures at work to promote development there." As a result of the public outcry, Magic Island was set aside exclusively for public recreation in 1970, eight years after it was built as a hotel site. The state, which continues to have jurisdiction over the peninsula, developed it into a park and administers it today as Aina Moana State Recreation Area. 6.0. Planning for the Future: The 1970's At present, the City and County of Honolulu has a master plan for Ala Moana Beach Park that is more of an historical curiosity than a useful guide to the future. written in 1975 by Wilson Okamoto & Associates, a local engineering and architec- tural firm, the Ala Moana Beach Park Master Plan Report is pro- duct of both the debate over Magic Island and the popular percep- 37
  42. 42. tion in the 1970's of an energy crisis. It contains some useful specific recommendations but also some extraordinarily controver- sial suggestions that render implementation unlikely and imprac- tical today. The report is clearly a legacy of the Magic Island contro- versy of the previous decade. It begins by tracing the history of planning attempts in the area, characterizing their "general thrust" as an effort "to convert large areas of the park to massive parking lots, and then follow with strategic placement of hotels and specialized tourist attractions." Noting that there has been a "change in public and agency attitudes toward the value of open space, natural areas and recreational lands, especially as it pertains to the interests of residents," the 1975 plan announces "it is time for a fresh approach." Curiously and somewhat anachronistically, the report's "fresh" approach retained the scheme for massive coastal develop- ment (see map I). pointing out that the pressures for beachfront parks were only going to increase in the future, the report endorsed building the offshore island in the long-term, as well as short-range plans for land reclamation at both the new penin- sula and the Kewalo basin. The general land configuration pro- posed by Wilson Okamoto in 1975 was conceptually similar to that proposed by Belt Collins in 1961, even though Okamoto emphasized park not resort development. Truly "freshn was the proposal to evict cars from the park. Arguing that it was time nto de-emphasize the automobile," the report advocated converting the park's thoroughfare into a pedes- trian and bicycle promenade. Lighted at night or in the noonday 38
  43. 43. sun, the promenade would be an attraction in itself, a place to see and physical interior. be seen. In addition, it would achieve "visual cohesion" between the beach and the green space of and the Particularly controversial was the proposal to build three multi-story parking structures in the park to accommodate the cars prohibited from using roadway parking spots. One was to be built adjacent to the McCoy Pavilion and two at the outer peri- pheries. The park's restrooms, food concessions, and maintenance sheds were also to be relocated into these parking garages, creating three centralized service facilities. The visual impact of the structures was to be minimized by attractive landscaping. Especially visionary was the expectation that cars would disappear from the American scene altogether. Anticipating that at some future date the automobile would become "an undesirable commodity," the planners in 1975 predicted that "public reapprai- sal of the role of the automobile will bring other transportation systems into dominance." Toward this end, they recommended the architecture of the proposed parking structures be "flexible," so that the spaces could be converted easily to other uses than storing automobiles. Ultimately, the master plan of 1975 offered ~ set of contra- dictory recommendations. Its stated intention of maintaining and enhancing the open space of the park was seriously compromised by the suggestion of massive concrete service units. Much of the rural character would be lost, as the park came to resemble the urban grid already surrounding it. 39
  44. 44. To its credit, the report viewed the municipal park and the state recreation area as a single unit for the purposes of coor- dinated planning, and it did identify two significant issues: the need for more beachfront park space in Honolulu and the problems that the automobile had created at Ala Moana. But whether the car is a blessing or curse, reports of its imminent demise were clearly exaggerated in 1975. The nation may have become some- what more aware of energy issues during the 1970's, but there is by no means consensus today that Americans want to give up their automobiles or even that the citizens of Honolulu want a system of mass transportation. From this standpoint, the architects of the 1975 master plan sound remarkably similar to early park designers also interested in using parks to achieve a particular reform vision. Whether the goals are laudable or not, the his- tory of urban parks suggests that planners experience enormous difficulty imposing designs that do not enjoy popular support. The suggestion to create more oceanfront park space in Honolulu through massive offshore development would be likely to encounter similar public opposition were planners to propose implementation. In addition to the arguments of preservation- minded environmentalists and displaced surfers, the $24 million price tag (1975 dollars) is a major fiscal deterrent today. Financially strapped governments in the 1980's will have to abandon grandiose plans and look for some of the innovative solutions employed in the 1930's, by scaling down their expecta- tions and doing more with less. 40
  45. 45. 7.0. Conclusion: The 1980's In the postwar period, the history of Ala Moana Park has been inseparable from the process of city planning. In the fifties and sixties, "urban renewal" dominated the thinking of American planners, justifying massive expenditures of federal funds in city centers, usually with no concern for the historical fabric of the area to be "redeveloped." While Ala Moana Park was never the object of a redevelopment project as such, it was the target of a similar philosophy at the time: a major infusion of state money threatened to overwhelm the historic design of the original park. In the seventies, "environment" and "ecology" became the catch words that informed thinking about Ala Moana Park and its future, just as the terms gained popularity among Americans as a whole during that decade. Environmentally-minded citizens turned their efforts to "saving the park," both from developers and from Ala Moana's car-borne visitors who seemed on the verge of loving it to death. Now, in the eighties, "historic preservation" animates dis- cussions of the park. More attention than ever before is being paid to the integrity and significance of the park's landscape design and architectural features, as studies seek to document their history. Because it is a requirement of the National Register of Historic Places that listed properties be at least fifty years old, Ala Moana Park is now in a position to be considered for nomination to the register and, if found eligible, receive the legal protection that inclusion offers. 41
  46. 46. Over t~e years, well-meaning (as well as self-interested) people have proposed .a variety of different uses for the park site. Remarkably, Ala Moana Park has maintained the integrity of its original design, in spite of a history of past attempts to modify it. In 1938, even as Ala Moana was under construction, a territorial legislator impatient· with the cost and pace of development proposed dividing the park into 335 residential lots and leasing the choice property to finance operation of existing parks. Shortly after World War II, plans were made for a war memorial at Ala Moana, just as veterans of the first world war had built the War Memorial Natatorium in Kapiolani Park. One solution to the postwar housing shortage involved a proposal to erect almost 400 ·workers' cabins· at the western end of the park. Others suggested an amusement park for Magic Island, complete with artificial volcano. More prosaic proposals have included a freeway in the park and a ferry terminal on the beach. Just recently, a state legislator recommended building the much- debated convention center at Ala Moana Park. Like the plans in the fifties and sixties to move the park to an offshore island, all of these proposals have one assump- tion in common: the park is merely empty land and, therefore, fair game for any project that needs real estate. For its users, though, the park clearly represents open space and access to open ocean, not merely empty land. As anyone who has tried to find a place to park on a weekend afternoon knows, Ala Moana has a large and devoted following among the local citizenry. It is, with the exception of Sand Island and Keehi Lagoon, the only beach park 42
  47. 47. between Waikiki and Ewa, the city. the most densely populated section of It is important to remember that the park is also a signifi- cant cultural landscape, not just open space momentarily pre- served from development. It is a swatch of the urban fabric of Honolulu, as much as the buildings and boulevards are, and its architecture and grounds help define the city's unique identity. The park is a piece of history that reminds us that people and places have not always been as they are today. In this sense, Ala Moana is a cultural artifact from the thirties that merits preservation for its historical and architectural significance, as much as for its recreational utility. The idea that Ala Moana is simply empty space available for development has been a persistent theme in the history of the park. Because there is no reason to believe that the perception will ever disappear entirely, this view represents the single greatest threat to the park's historic integrity. It is heart- ening to know that Ala Moana has shown a remarkable ability to maintain its original design over the last five decades, but these periodic struggles also remind us that preservation battles never win conclusive victories. The legal protection of the moment can always be altered at some point in the future. No park space -- whether the wild nature of a national park or the cultural landscape of an urban park can ever be preserved forever. The only decisions for permanence in the preservation business are those that erect a dam on a wilderness river or a multi-story parking garage in an urban park. As long as the perception persists that a park is merely empty land, preserva- 43
  48. 48. tionists will have to argue that parks are islands in time that connect the present with the past. 44
  49. 49. NOTES 1. Act 271, Sessions Laws of Hawaii for 1927, p. 346. 2. See for example: The Comprehensive Plan: Ala Moana Reef, Honolulu, Hawaii (Honolulu: Belt, Collins & Associates and Har- land Bartholomew & Associates, 1961), p. 8; Ala Moana Beach Park Master Plan Report (Honolulu: Wilson Okamoto & Associates, 19?5T; p. 2. 3. "Ala Moana Park," Honolulu Star Bulletin & Advertiser, 11 September 1977; Minutes of the Shade Tree Commission, 10 October 1929, 6 November 1929. The unpublished minutes are housed at the Department of Parks and Recreation, Honolulu. 4. Catherine Jones Richards and Robert Oliver "Parks in Honolulu," Paradise of the Pacific, XLV 1932), pp. 21-24. ----- 5. Honolulu Star Bulletin, 12 June 1946. Thompson, (December 6. Lewis Mumford, City Development (New York, 1945), 85. 7. Honolulu Advertiser, 22 September 1953. 8. The architectural description in this section, as well as portions of the material on Bent's park architecture, were written by Ann K. Yoklavich of SpencerMason Architects, Honolulu. 9. Loraine E. Kuck, "Honolulu's Banyan Court Garden," Para- dise of the Pacific, LIX (Christmas 1947), p. 61. 10. Quoted by Steve Salis, "Playful Architecture: The Legacy of Harry Sims Bent," Hawaii Architect, 14 (June 1985), p. 12. 11. Lester McCoy, "Ala Moana Park, Honolulu, Territory of Hawaii: Outline prepared by and under the direction of the Park Board of the City and County of Honolulu," [1936], p. 10. Type- script in files of Department of Parks and Recreation. Also published under the byline of Jan Jabulka as "Moana Park: Newest Link in Honolulu's Chain of Playgrounds," Honolulu Star Bulletin, 7 March 1936. 12. Park Board of the City and County of Honolulu, Your Parks: Annual Report for 1938 (Honolulu, 1938), pp. 3, 10. 13. McCoy, "Ala Moana Park: Outline," pp. 1-2, 6. 14. Ibid. 15. Board of Public Parks and Recreation, Everybody Can Have Fun in Honolulu's Parks and Playgrounds: Annual Report for 1954 (Honolulu, 1954). 45
  50. 50. 16. Phoebe Cutler, The Public Landscape of the New Deal (New Haven: Yale Uni versi ty Press, (1985]), pp. 15-16, 19. 17. J. Frisbee Campbell and Ralph Moberly, Ala Moana Beach Erosion: Monitoring and Recommendations (Honolulu: Hawaii Insti- tute of Geophysics, 1978). 18. Ala Moana Beach Park Master Plan Report (Honolulu: Wilson Okamoto & Associates, 1975), p. 2. 46
  51. 51. Lv XION2dd'i
  52. 52. 1897 c. 1900 1920 1925 1927 1927 1928 1928 1930 1929 ALA MOANA BEACH PARK: CHRONOLOGY u.s. government assumes title to site from Republic of Hawaii Use of portion .of present site as a dump begins Shade Tree Commission established Outdoor Circle discusses idea of park on site with Governor Charles McCarthy May 3. Territorial legislature authorizes $200,000 Kewalo reclamation project through Act 271 Oct. 25. Presidential proclamation deeds site to Territory Jan. 16. Territory deeds site to city for use as park Permit issued to Hawaiian Dredging Company for channel fro. Kewalo to Waikiki (Ala Wai) Jan.-Oct. Filling of site with 400,000 cuyds. of fill Shade Tree Commission discusses features of park 1931 July 7. First meeting of Honolulu Park Board 1931 1931 1933 1933 1934 1934 1936 1937 1938 1939 1941-6 1946 July 10. General plan by Richards & Thompson approved Landscape work begins with territorial relief labor; nursery established FERA and CWA assistance begins Harry Sims Bent hired as park architect Canal bridge completed July 27. President Roosevelt dedicates entrance portals Lester McCoy describes progress on park Sports Pavilion, Banyan Garden, Eskridge murals completed Proposal to divide park into 335 residential lots Bowling green completed Military occupation of park Board of Parks and Recreation established 48
  53. 53. 1947 1948 1948 1949 1949 1950 1951 1952 1954 1954 1954-5 1955 1957 1958 1959 1959 1959 1960 1961 1961 1961 1962 1966-7 1968 1969 1970 Name changed from Moana Park to Ala Moana Park Village of Ulu Mau opens u.s. Army Corps of Engineers feasibility study of reef development Waikiki Beach Improvement study by Law & Wilson recommends off-shore development Park roadway paved Plans approved for remodelled Oriental Lagoon Ala Wai entrance channel dredged City planning commission proposes off-shore island for use as park Children's Center in pavilion opens Kaiser proposes $50 million resort on Ala Moana Reef Sand beach constructed Park board orders study of offshore island Concession stand built on Diamond Head side Aug. 18. Federal government deeds reef to territory Statehood Department of Parks and Recreation established Bathhouse built on Diamond Head side ulu Mau renovated Belt Collins comprehensive plan Phase one (eastern peninsula) approved Bathhouse and concession stand built on ewa side Kaiser builds phase one (Magic Island) Bowling green renovated. Bequest by Hazel Corning McCoy to city to build McCoy Pavilion in memory of her late husband Lifeguard towers built Decision that Magic Island is to be used only for recreation 49
  54. 54. 1975 1975 1976-7 Wilson Okamoto master plan Completion of McCoy Pavilion Beach reconstructed with North Shore sand 50
  55. 55. LIST OF PARK TREES The variety of trees in Ala Moana Park today gives it an interest and diversity more commonly associated with a botanical garden than the typical city park. Included here are the scientific and common names of park trees. The Department of Parks and Recrea- tion has on file a planting map showing tree locations. Peltophorum inerme Enterolobium cyclocarpun Erthrina variegata, var. orientalis Platymiscium pinnatum Adansonia digitata Mimusops elengi Catalpa longissima Messerschmidia argentea Samanea saman Noronhia emarginata Calophyllum inophyllum pterocarpus indicus Cinnamomum camphora Spathodea campanulata Tabebuia pentaphylla Brassaia actinophylla Pimenta officinalis Agathis robusta Guaiacum officinal Tamarindus indicus Cordia Subcordata Sapindus saponaria Ligustrum ovalifolium Crescentia cujete Albizzia sp. Bougainvillea glabra Olea europaea Tipuana tipu Elaeodendron orientale Swietenia mahagoni Guasuma ulmifolia Terminalia sp. Dolichandrone spathacea Conocarpus erectus Heritiera littoralis Piscidia piscipula Brexia madagascariensis Parkia javanica Sterculia urens Bucida buceras Wallaceodendron celebicum Schotia brachypetala Sterculia foetida Lagunaria patersonii 51 Yellow Poinciana Earpod wiliwili Roble Bottle Tree Pogada Yoke-Wood Tree Heliotrope Monkey Pod Madagascar Olive Native Kamani Narra Camphor Tree African Tulip Pink Tecoma Umbrella Tree Allspice Tree Kauri Pine Lignum Vitae Tamarind Kou Soapberry Privet Calabash Tree Siris Tree Bougainvillea Olive Tipu False Olive Mahogany Bastard Cedar Mangrove Trumpet Tree Buttonwood Looking Glass Tree Fish Poison Tree Brexia Parkia Gular Jucaro Banuyo Schotia Skunk Tree Whitewood
  56. 56. Clusia rosea Bombax malabarica Ochrosia elliptica Citharexylum spinosum Melicocca bijuga Ficus sp. Cassis fistula Kigelia africana Artocarpus incisus Pandanus sp. Brownea sp. 52 scotch Attorney Redsilk Cotton Tree Ochrosia Fiddlewood Spanish Lime Banyan Golden Shower Sausage Tree Breadfruit Hala Brownea
  57. 57. SNV'Id QNV SdVW
  58. 58. VI ,... » z o o "o » :r c r, I ". - •... ~, '
  59. 59. VI VI B. Landscape Plan by Richards and Thompson, 1932 '. - ~l"""""
  60. 60. .,. In 0 • • .... y II • --- ------ --- - ...-. --. - ~ - .AJ:.Jl .. ~.Jl~ - - :i)EUJJCO!P.AiJJKT"- --Iit ..--~ ""'7 .--c~.. "--'-~ ---.,.".,. ""''''~N' $~'-"- .. .._,,.~ .........i..... o ,.........,... I.e"";... ..rI ~ ....u 6.1" ",.,1,0" I __pi./f.,(ion JbIftlI"tDn tD~ I/t¥wf:n'iQI'F "'11a~ o A_II ,,-,.., ~ Jl<>cH/ , 1Joo/"" t:.,.I., ., Ila .-0, ~,.,d!• S ~_1tCIW T.a /I.t.HI,. c. G Sports Pavilion .. A Fishermen;s Jetty B West Portal C Aquarium D Oriental Lagoon H lvomen I s Bath Pavilion J Central Recreation Unit K ~!en I S Bath Pavilion E Park Administration F Bowling Green L" Comfort Station M Hawaiian Laggon t • A 1 1 "' o<::CJ '.<7 {] c o Ii. M Hawaiian Lagoon N Hawaiian Village o t(oosevelt Portal A P Yacht and Boating Center R Ala Wai Bridge S Japanese Tea House / ~~- / ~ ......... / C. Proposal by Lester McCoy, 1936
  61. 61. n -~ -1 "> -<"- 0 0,0 ." - ~~ CIt .. i :t 0 ,0 ... - .. rn ~. 0 :s- ~ ~ % ." 0 r- r- "> z c:: r- c::
  62. 62. 8~ "PUBlS1 a~oqsJJo ~U1MOqS 46~61 4uo1~Ba~Oa~ pUE S~~Ed JO P~BOH Aq IBsodo~d "a
  63. 63. V> '" F.pllll1 by HnH'Y }, la;ser- 19H Proposal shows resort on new island off the park.
  64. 64. G. Proposal by Board of Harbor Conunissioners, 1956, to fill park with hotels and apartments. 60
  65. 65. 0'1 I-' "'~''''h'' 8L.Y 0 W£WAlO {l D. ~ IN A STUDY FOR POSSIBLE DEVELOPMENT OF PORTIONS OF ALA MOANA REEF LAND USE AND DETAILS OF THE PLAN "HAlED f 0 1 om COMMI; 'ONU Of ' UI UC l ...NOS ~~Al ~ OJ' n"'WAII H. Proposal by Belt Collins, 1961 .t'-'~__ '·'¥!!l 4l A,- ""W·... I "1':- 'r 0." Ji T PLANN'NG STUOY BY 8HT,C.OlLNS a ..:n~"lts.LTD. ....."l,.6HO I'AMtHOll.IlI[-' & ASIOC. .. oIOII'IIT -oI'(HTU",r D£C "'0 PLATE 4
  66. 66. H " I-d t1 o "d o en Pl I-' ~ ~ 1-" I-' en o ::l o irt o.. r- o zc., ~ zC') ITI "tI r- ):> z r- ):> z c(/) n ):> "tI Z C') Z9 " ··• · II ···1" ·
  67. 67. AKY DPR HSA MRRC RRW PHOTOGRAPHIC ESSAY Key to Abbreviations Ann K. Yoklavich. Department of Parks and Recreation, City and County of Honolulu. Hawaii State Archives, Honolulu. Municipal Reference and Records Center, Honolulu. Robert R. weyeneth. 64
  68. 68. .... . ~ ~. m •
  69. 69. ...,,- • "~ eo '""e' P- "•~ .... '"'"". ~ 0- '< 0: ~ "'< <h "~. '"• ""~ • ~~
  70. 70. I
  71. 71. The Banyan Court : "useful Qeauty has supplanted the former dwnp." (Park Report for 1938)
  72. 72. in 1970' s . (HSA)
  73. 73. Walls and Pools of Banyan Court (MRRC) (prior to construction of McCoy Pavilion)
  74. 74. n g "" ,
  75. 75. I'D ~ I'D Ii ..... o Ii <....I'D ~
  76. 76. Sports Pavilion with Gate to Banyan Court (MRRC)
  77. 77. "isH 1 rt , " !'0 % ie· .... ~e· 0 " ,•, ~ ,,. , i:j ~
  78. 78. , " !• ".... 1~ ", "'0 ~ ", dii I ~ ., § '"~ "'"'0 """~ > <:j ~
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  81. 81. to 0 " ,~.... J;f Ii'H <"> , -' 0 . " I' -:1 0 H , •"• '"~....m • ~ " •<"> '< • ""H ~ .... • 1- •H H •0 •• " , E , < ~ • • o- ", m ", Ii' f , ~ ~ • • ~
  82. 82. " . ~ .' ~
  83. 83. M co H H III o CO .. o. ...... 0 lJ1 o
  84. 84. (
  85. 85. ~ ~ .....' ~ ....... . 'r': .--'" .." Io!;- ,~ .-~ r ""'. :, .• ., - • •, v ....",' ,. "'" ~ ""'... • .". • f- 1_ .... _....". -"C • .. W"' ··...- . _.'''' ,,-""to-. -....,....~ .. ~,T ~. '*~ .;.;. 1 . . . .~ - #: ~",""" ... -'" ..; . -,- • .f- ..- • ~ -- t -- , .•- :.......!'-'i,PI ." • - • ~ .. .....' , -...c....,.. '"if" -..". ~ ,1""'''' a .n'" -,~_,* ~ <r ~- • " ..,.!!. , - ."..-. .' --:,6~ 'R: .. sR' '" (! )~- The Sand Beach. Line of exposed coral in water marks outer edge of channel dredged i n 1928. CRRW)
  86. 86. ~ H o • ",. • :l' Jlo .... •o ~ ~ n •fH ~ :;' H H •o •
  87. 87. I "~ I . I' (~da) O~6T-t£6T 'pn!OS :l{:IPd 'lrnI.l1:l1"£'I.O '~ ~SE71
  88. 88. ) Taro Patch and Grass Huts at "Hawaiian" Vill age of Ulu Mau, c . 1950 (MRRC) )
  89. 89. Eastern Lagoon, showing vi sual intrusion of recent buildings al ong park boundary. (RRW)
  90. 90. The drainage canal directs run-off of tropical showers and links p~rk lagoons. (RRW)