Hawaii’s Board of Land and Natural Resources voted in April to reject a plan to demolish a swimming cove in Kahala, but the fight to save the site known as Cromwell’s isn’t over.
The board denied the oceanfront museum Shangri La a permit to dismantle one of two breakwaters along a publicly accessible seawall. Dismantling the breakwater, which runs parallel to the seawall, would turn the pool into a rocky shoreline.
The Doris Duke Foundation for Islamic Art operates the museum and hopes moving boulders from the breakwater into the ocean pool will prevent thrill-seeking youths from jumping into the water from the seawall.
The rocky wall that forms a breakwater and created a unique swimming hole has become a liability for owners of the Shangri La Museum.
Courtesy of the Doris Duke Foundation for Islamic Art
A letter from the Office of Conservation and Coastal Lands argues the board’s 4-2 vote denying the permit is invalid because one of the board members, Thomas Oi, did not understand what he was voting on. Oi thought he was voting to defer the issue, not deny the permit, the letter says.
Oi could not be reached for comment Thursday. The board meets Friday to revote.
“It’s the only real swimming area between Kahala Beach and Diamond Head,” said Richard Turbin, chairman of the Waialae-Kahala Neighborhood Board. “It’s been there for almost 100 years now and it’s a recreational asset for the community ”
Shangri La is the former home of late tobacco heiress Doris Duke, who had the breakwater constructed in the late 1930s as a swimming pool for her guests and a harbor for her boats.
A seawall borders the cove, which has been a popular swimming spot.
The Kahala neighborhood board unanimously voted last June and again in April to oppose the foundation’s plan.
The hashtag #savecromwells links Facebook users to an online petition calling for BLNR to again reject the permit. The petition had 1,153 signatures Thursday afternoon.
The foundation erected a fence along the seawall in 2014 to prevent people from jumping into the shallow pool. Now people climb up and jump from the the 6-foot-high fence.
Jumping into the basin caused two people to suffer paraplegia and another to suffer permanent quadriplegia, according to the environmental assessment. The Duke estate was sued for negligence and reached undisclosed settlements.
The foundation declined to comment through a spokesperson but in a statement said:
The museum commissioned extensive studies and sought community input to address safety concerns at Cromwell’s. The resulting project is environmentally sound and will allow for the continuation of recreational activities, including swimming, snorkeling and fishing while reducing hazards that have resulted in three cases of paraplegia. Shangri La’s objective is to make Cromwell’s safer for public enjoyment.
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