Barbara Kim Stanton
Hawai‘i Herald Columnist
Imagine all of O‘ahu’s shoreline parks linked together from to Nänäkuli. You’d be able to walk or bike along the shoreline — from park to park — mostly away from traffic, and enjoy easy access to the beauty and recreational activities in our parks.
It’s been a dream of planners for decades, and on Saturday, Sept. 1, it will become reality for three parks: Ala Moana Beach Park, Kewalo Basin Park and Kaka‘ako Waterfront Park. The Lei of Parks “pop-up” will utilize temporary signs, chalk ground stencils and traffic controls which will allow people to walk and bike through all three parks for one day. The entire route is only about three miles long and will give users a glimpse into what could be O‘ahu’s recreational future.
“This is a small slice of what we hope will happen all along the south shore (of O‘ahu) to make it more accessible,” said Lea Hong, state director of The Trust for Public Lands’ Hawaiian Islands Program, which is organizing the event.
AARP is supporting the Lei of Parks through a Community Challenge Grant donation. We hope it helps to showcase Honolulu as an age-friendly and livable community — a place where people of all ages can enjoy the great outdoors.
Activities are planned at all three parks. Bikeshare Hawaii will kick off a free social rides program, sponsored by AARP, to encourage people 50 and older to bicycle and to use its Biki rideshare bicycles. AARP Hawai‘i will also sponsor a “Walk with a Doc” program with Dr. Theresa Wee. There will also be walking tours of exceptional trees in the park and of historic sites, yoga, a beach volleyball clinic and a keiki-friendly bicycle ride. Participants who collect three stamps from “passport stations” in the parks will be eligible to enter a drawing for Alaska Airlines plane tickets.
Having parks and access to walking and biking path improves your quality of life, and it’s healthy. Research shows that people who live close to parks and walking paths exercise more than people who don’t. Residents of neighborhoods with greenery also enjoy stronger social ties than those who live in areas with more concrete than green space. That’s important because people with strong social ties live longer than people who live more isolated lives.
The Lei of Parks event is a first step in the right direction. There are still barriers to linking O‘ahu’s south shore parks. The land along the route is a mix of private, city, state and federal lands. There are also various agencies involved — the military, harbors, airports, National Parks Service, city Department of Parks and Recreation, and state Department of Land and Natural Resources. The rail project and transit-oriented development will also play a role in making the parks more accessible to people.
But for one day in September, it will be enough to simply enjoy our parks and dream of the possibilities.
To learn more and/or sign up to join AARP in the Lei of Parks, visit aarp.cvent.com/lei2018.