Lanai residents torn over how to handle coveted beach | News, Sports, Jobs

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Unlike many beaches and state parks, Hulopoe Beach Park is quiet, well-maintained, away from major roads, and free from large obstacles from several hotels. As traffic from non-residents increases, the Hulopoe Beach Park Council recently proposed draft measures to “limit non-resident access” to the park, including a fee-based online reservation system. A public meeting Thursday evening drew dozens of people and dozens of witnesses, many of whom said the measures could be too restrictive. – BUTCH GIMA photo

Unlike many beaches and parks in the state, Hulopoe Beach Park – a special place on the south shore of Lanai – isn’t completely overrun with people.

Hulopoe Beach Park Council, a panel tasked with overseeing the private land since the late 1980s, is working to prevent it from getting there.

“The experience of the people at Hulopoe evokes a lot of emotion, passion and a lot of memories for those who were born and raised here, who have family here”, Butch Gima, a native of Lanai and a board member for Hulopoe Beach Park, said Friday. “We want to preserve it, perpetuate that feeling you get from Hulopoe.”

The group of nine members of Lanai Beach Park recently proposed a draft of measures to “Limit the access of non-residents” at the park, including a paid online reservation system.

Non-residents would not be allowed to enter the park without a reservation. With a reservation, non-residents would wear a wristband when entering and using the park. Without a reservation, they would have to access the beach by an alternative route.

Hulopoe Beach Park, a prized stretch of coastline on Lanai’s south shore, was overseen by a board established in the late 1980s and early 1990s. The board said it managed the private park, which s ‘extends from the high water mark inland. Members stressed in a meeting Thursday night that he is not trying to restrict access to the beach. – BUTCH GIMA photo

Additionally, residents could sponsor access for family or friends with the same process used in sponsoring residents for beach camping.

A public meeting facilitated by the beach council on Thursday night drew dozens of attendees online and in person. Fourteen Lanai residents testified, along with others from Maui, Oahu and California.

Many said they appreciated the work to reduce overcrowding but opposed the draft measures, saying the rules could be too restrictive on former residents and non-resident friends or family.

Keala Kaopuiki-Santos, whose family stretches back generations on Lanai, said she didn’t want to see Hulopoe invaded but believed in balance.

Lanai has already become exclusive and she is concerned that this “A restriction could make this worse”, said Keala Kaopuiki-Santos.

She suggested a tiered system to prioritize people with island connections for beach park access and for camping.

Lanai secondary and elementary school teacher Deborah Scarborough also said the measures may be too restrictive.

Nonetheless, Scarborough acknowledged that the beach park and its surroundings are taxed by a greater number of people.

“How could we start at the root of these businesses that let day trippers down here?” “ she asked. “My concern is that there is no money coming into Lanai. It is a situation of use and leave that affects the environment.

At the start of the hearing, Beach Park Board Chair Kelly Maltezo, Gima’s daughter, acknowledged that the panel had heard concerns about the impact of the measures on former residents, members of the family or guests of residents.

“I challenge all of you today to provide us with any ideas or suggestions on what you think would work.” she said.

Maltezo pointed out the difference between the beach and the beach park, the latter belonging to Pulama Lana’i and extending inland from the high water mark.

“We do not in any way try to block access to the beach because it is illegal”, she said. “Contrary to what many of you have probably seen going around, especially if you have social media, the Hulopoe Beach Park Council is not in a position to try to restrict access to residents, to make reservations through residents or to suggest that residents should even pay, that would go against the very core (of the council) … Our top priority has always been and always will be the residents of Lanai.

Overcrowding statewide has increased in recent years, coinciding with record arrivals to Hawaii in 2019.

Domestic arrivals have rebounded faster than expected after the pandemic travel rules eased just over a year ago and government officials continue to consider options to reduce traffic and the negative impacts on natural resources, while preserving residents’ access.

Recent state overcrowding mitigation measures include establishing reservation systems and / or parking fees for non-residents at popular locations, such as Wai’anapanapa and Makena State Parks. of Maui, as well as areas on other islands.

Gima said on Friday that the council would meet next week to review the public hearing and members’ reactions to the testimony. They will discuss possible next steps, such as modifying or refining the proposal, or whether more information needs to be gathered before bringing a specific proposal to the community.

However, how to prioritize resident access and alleviate overcrowding is a unique challenge for the beach council, Gima said.

After all, this is one of the few coastal locations in Hawaii that is quiet, well-maintained, away from the freeway, and free of obstacles from several hotels.

“The beach council wanted to take a preemptive and proactive stance on our beach and beach park, knowing what was going on statewide with overcrowding – we didn’t want to wait for a crisis to happen,” said Gima.

“We all want ‘how it was before’ for Hulopoe Beach, but the Beach Park Council is responsible for what it is now and what it could possibly be,” he added. “We want to be part of the potential changes. “

* Kehaulani Cerizo can be contacted at [email protected]

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