Thursday, May 15, 2014

Ala Wai Park & Canal

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Today's tropical adventure takes us to Honolulu's Ala Wai Canal and the adjacent city park & golf course. The canal surrounds Waikiki on three sides, separating it from the rest of the city. Until the 1920s, Waikiki was a low, swampy area. The canal was built for drainage, and was originally supposed to cut all the way through and make Waikiki an island. This had the lucrative and not entirely accidental side effect of making Waikiki prime real estate.

Unfortunately the canal's become famous for poor water quality and environmental problems; it's even been dubbed "Hawaii's Biggest Mistake" in some quarters. In 2006, major flooding caused a sewer line failure, resulting in millions of gallons of raw sewage being dumped into the canal. Several days later, a man fell into the canal, developed a massive bacterial infection, and died. So yeah, not so great. An ugly black emergency pipe installed after the floods was only just removed last May after a permanent replacement for the failed sewer line came online.

Despite all that, the canal is a popular rowing venue. I suppose because Hawaii doesn't have a lot of calm inland bodies of water, so it's either row here or row in the ocean.

The park is nice. When I visited it was full of joggers, kids at baseball practice, rowing clubs, people just enjoying the afternoon, and very few tourists. I don't think tourists cross the canal very often, and the park seems to cater to locals almost exclusively. It even has a huge community garden, for high rise dwellers who don't have room for their own gardens. The Diamond Head side of the park is a municipal golf course, unfortunately. Or fortunately, if you insist on playing golf for some reason.

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