(Reuters) - A Honolulu City Council proposal to name a popular Oahu beach after the first Hawaii-born U.S. president, Barack Obama, has been withdrawn after the plan met with little enthusiasm from the public, its sponsors said on Tuesday.
Council Chair Ernest Martin and co-sponsor Stanley Chang introduced a resolution last week to honor the commander-in-chief by renaming Sandy Beach Park as President Barack Obama Sandy Beach Park.
Located near Hanauma Bay on the east end of Oahu, the beach is known for a large shore break that makes it a favorite among body surfers, including, sponsors say, the president.
Obama is known to have body surfed at Sandy Beach while he was growing up, and has ridden the waves there while on vacation since being elected to the White House.
But according to a statement Martin issued on Tuesday, “public reaction to the proposal has been mixed.”
“Most of the comments have raised the issue of historical and cultural sensitivity, and a number of alternatives have been suggested by the public,” the statement said, adding that the two sponsors have agreed to remove the resolution from the council’s agenda.
Reaction among beachgoers seemed sharply divided.
“Maybe he did grow up here, but as a local, I’ve been surfing here for 10 years easy, and I don’t think it’s fair,” Kanaloa Kane, a resident of the nearby community of Waimanalo, told local TV station KHON2.
But another frequent Sandy Beach visitor, Beth Amann, was quoted as saying that naming the park for Obama would “keep things more picked up” and bring “better maintenance.”
Martin suggested that given Obama’s strong support of Honolulu’s rail transit project, a better idea might be to name one of the stations after him.
“I‘m confident that as this process moves along, the entire community will weigh in with other ideas for Honolulu to properly honor its hometown president,” he wrote.
The City Council, whose jurisdiction covers the entire island of Oahu, has previously approved funding for a plaque to be placed at or near Sandy Beach commemorating Obama’s fondness for bodysurfing there, said Mark Segami, a spokesman for Martin.
Reporting by Steve Gorman in Los Angeles; Editing by Eric Walsh