Proposed park to change location following debate

HONOLULU — A group planning to build a children’s playground in a Honolulu neighborhood announced a new location for the project following disputes about the originally proposed site.

Nonprofit group Paani Kakou said it will try to erect a playground at Kakaako Makai Gateway Park rather than Ala Moana Regional Park. Both are in Honolulu.

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Placing the playground at Ala Moana would have been out of character with the park, according to opponents who said they wanted to maintain its open spaces.

Playground planners hope to construct a facility for up to 450 children that will be the first on Oahu designed for children with disabilities. Paani Kakou plans to raise construction funds through a public-private partnership with the city.

Factors contributing to the location change include the nearby Children’s Discovery Center, available parking space and a recent transfer of the Kakaako park to the city from state, Paani Kakou said.

“This will be Oahu’s first inclusive playground for all children of all abilities,” Paani Kakou Executive Director Tiffany Vara said in a statement.

Ron Iwami, president of Friends of Kewalos, which opposed the Ala Moana proposal, said he supports locating the playground at Kakaako.

“It’s a much better fit next to the Children’s Discovery Center,” Iwami said. “I think they will come together nicely.”

Plans for the new playground include bathrooms that comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act, a concession operation to pay for maintenance and a park ranger office.

Admission will be free, officials said.

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The construction timeline, cost and size of the facility have not been determined, Paani Kakou board member Alana Kobayashi Pakkala said.

“We just wanted to make sure to get the word out that we were shifting our attention,” she said. “Until we get into the designing and planning process, we can’t determine what is the right size for here.”

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