The Slippery Slope On Ala Wai Canal

They that say good things come to those who wait. If that’s true, then hundreds of paddlers who launch their canoes from a floating dock on Ala Wai Canal have a ton of good coming their way.

For more than two years, paddlers have been waiting patiently for repairs on a heavily used damaged dock.

The issue is a malfunctioning buoy designed to keep the docks afloat. When working properly, the dock provides a safe “launching pad” for paddlers to enter the less than ideal waters of the Ala Wai.

But several years ago, the city-owned dock started to sag on one side, and as the months went by, the drooping corner began to disappear into the canal. With a large portion of it almost always submerged or damp, it didn’t take long for algae to grow and accidents to happen.

The heavily used Ala Wai Canal canoe launch is in disrepair, causing some paddlers to fall into the dirty drink RON MIZUTANI PHOTO

The heavily used Ala Wai Canal canoe launch is in disrepair, causing some paddlers to fall into the dirty drink RON MIZUTANI PHOTO

“This has been like this for a couple of years at least,” says OC-1 paddler Paco Mireles. “I launch my one-man canoe from there and one corner of the dock is submerged and is all mossy. It’s very slippery.”

In 2013, paddlers alerted city officials of the slippery slope. By then, more than a dozen paddlers, including several children, had either slipped off the dock completely or had near misses and avoided falling into the dreaded Ala Wai.

It was a safety issue then and continues to be one now.

Two years ago, the city told paddlers it would take appropriate action to fix the problem, but paddlers and coaches say nothing has been done. Many are frustrated by the lack of action, and some believe it’s just a matter of time before someone is seriously injured. “There was a story on the news about this two years ago, but nothing happened,” says Mireles. “Nothing except for the yellow tape! I’ve seen people slip and fall in the water, and it is spookier when trying to carry the canoe in.”

The dock is used year round by a number of high school paddling teams, including Sacred Hearts Academy. It also has been used as a training area for Olympic hopefuls and world-class kayakers, and is the longtime home of Waikiki Surf Club.

With the summer regatta season quickly approaching, Mireles says now is the time to fix the sinking dock once and for all.

“The park was remodeled on both sides of this area,” he says. “Ala Wai Field got new lights, and they remodeled the parking lot. They built a doggie park close to Iolani School, but when they walk by this dock, they pretend they don’t notice anything is wrong.”

MidWeek reached out to the city to find out when crews would reassess what needs to be done to make the dock safe once again, and to see if a permanent fix was in the near future. Jon Hennington from the Department of Parks and Recreation says two plastic docks installed several years ago have not held up well over time and since have been supplemented by two wooden docks that were constructed by the contractor working on the Ala Wai Force Main sewer project.

Hennington says these docks are now the primary docks, and the city is asking the public to use these newer docks rather than the older one.

The city is planning to remove the old docks, but removal work has not been scheduled at this time.

Considering the condition of the Ala Wai’s waterway and the potential for lawsuits, many believe this is one slippery slope that should be removed right away.

The people who’ve exercised patience deserve some good.