Navy Transfers 400 Acres at Kalaeloa to City for Public Recreation

Assistant Secretary of the Navy Meredith Berger speaks at a dedication ceremony
Assistant Secretary of the Navy Meredith Berger speaks at a dedication ceremony June 13, 2024 at the Kūpono Solar site in Ewa Beach, HI. (Jacob M. Thompson/U.S. Air Force)

The City and County of Honolulu took ownership of approximately 400 acres of former Navy-­owned land at Kalaeloa that will go toward public recreation use, Mayor Rick Blangiardi announced at a ceremony outside Honolulu Hale on Wednesday afternoon.

The land acquisition, consisting of six parcels, has been in the making since the city, along with the Navy and the National Park Service, first applied for the land in 1999. The city took ownership of the lands from the secretary of the interior, acting by and through the director of NPS.

“This is what happens when like-minded people come together on a great idea, ” Blangiardi said at the ceremony. “Four-hundred acres is not a small amount of land. There’s a lot that went into this, but we are really very grateful.”

The land, which was home to the former Naval Air Station Barbers Point, was part of the U.S. military’s Base Realignment and Closure Act (BRAC ), through which unused and underused military-owned property is released for use by local communities. The transfer of the land did not cost anything to the city.

“It is a project of commitment and resilience, ” Assistant Secretary of the Navy Meredith Berger said. “It is a place of significance for the Navy, and now it is a place that will continue that significance for the future of the community. There is so much potential here in all that we can do, and we are glad to be a part of it and continue to be a part of it.”

Pearl Harbor National Memorial Superintendent Tom Leatherman, who represented NPS at the ceremony, said that NPS works with various federal agencies to transfer excess land to local or state agencies for recreational use, and ensures that the land is “forever used for public benefit and for park purposes.”

“We will always be involved in overseeing this parcel, ” Leatherman said. “We don’t own it, but we are, on behalf of the American public, responsible for making sure that its continuing use is available and open to the public.”

The land will fall under the jurisdiction of the City Department of Parks and Recreation, and includes parts of shoreline, a campground inherited from the military and some cultural sites.

“This represents a huge opportunity for the City and County of Oahu, ” DPR Director Laura Thielen said. “It represents some things for the West side and for people all over the island to be able to do new recreational opportunities like a racetrack (and ) new recreational opportunities like other things that they haven’t had access to on the West side.”

While no plans for what kinds of facilities will be established on the lands have been set yet, members of Honolulu’s motorsports community were present at Wednesday’s ceremony advocating for the construction of a motorsports complex on the land.

“We’ve been racing over 14 years at various sites, both off road and on road, and we’ve lost all the locations we’ve had, ” Avery Tsui, regional director of Hawaii Rally Sports Association, told the Honolulu Star-Advertiser. “I know they’re talking about various uses for the city park plan, but we feel motorsports would benefit not only our community, but the whole island, both for teaching people how to drive better, but also the economy with teaching people about mechanics and car setup.”

Tsui said that with the closing and redevelopment of Aloha Stadium, the last event location for the organization will be gone by the end of the year.

“I know people that say, ‘Hey, if we lose the final location on Oahu, ’ folks are going to relocate. It’s what they do for fun, so it’s kind of important, ” Tsui said. “I think (the city ) knows the need, and so we’re hopeful that it’ll come true.”

For residents on the West side, bringing more recreational activities and facilities into the community is long overdue.

“The West side is ready for a sports complex. So many community members invest their own funds to travel outside of Hawaii to seek sports opportunities, and I pray that this is the day that we bring those opportunities here, ” Honolulu City Council member Andria Tupola said. “I just want to thank Superintendent Leatherman as well as the Navy for what they did, because those types of investments are what’s going to really bring this to a possibility for our community to benefit from.”

Since taking title of the land, the city will initiate its planning process, which includes amending the city’s program of utilization for the parcels, installing signage documenting the donation of the land to the city and following agreements in the deed. There is no timeline for permitting activity on the parcels at this time.

“Now that we are getting title, we’ll be able to invest capital improvement funds and be able to start that planning and improve what’s needed, so badly needed, for the residents in this area, ” Thielen said. “It’s been (a ) very humbling and proud opportunity for me to work in the Department of Parks and Recreation and to provide these types of improvements for the West side.”

Blangiardi said that the City is excited about the possibilities of what can be done with the newly acquired land for the West side and the island as a whole.

“I want to offer you a sense of urgency and excitement about this, because it really is about the art of creation, ” Blangiardi said. “I don’t think we can get this stuff done fast enough. It will remain a priority for us.”


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