Tuesday, July 10, 2001

City & County of Honolulu

Lawsuit challenges
Hanauma Bay
entrance fee

The class action says
the city discriminates
against nonresidents

By Gordon Y.K. Pang

The city is discriminating against nonresidents by charging them $3 to enter Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve, according to a lawsuit filed today in U.S. District Court.

The lawsuit, a class action filed on behalf of nonresidents by the law firm of Bickerton Saunders & Dang, also alleges that it is illegal to charge for beach access and restrict freedom of movement along a public thoroughfare. Further, it claims the fee is not authorized by state statute and takes in more money than is necessary to pay for maintenance at the facility.

The lawsuit seeks an injunction blocking the fee. It also seeks unspecified damages from the city and its officials.

The lead plaintiff is Carol Daly, a California resident the suit says was subject to the $3 fee when she visited the bay on Oct. 21, 2000.

The Honolulu City Council approved the $3 fee for nonresidents in March 1997. Park officials estimated that the fee, and a new $1 parking charge would garner $2.6 million annually. The lawsuit estimates more than $10 million has collected to date.

Attorney James Bickerton noted that while the fee ostensibly was to be used to pay for maintenance of existing facilities, money from the Hanauma Bay fund is now going toward construction of a $10.6 million educational facility that includes staff office space and a snack bar.

"What many people don't realize is that once the new complex is built, the city plans to require everyone -- residents and visitors alike -- to take a course at the new learning center and get a special certificate before they can walk the beach," Bickerton said.

He described it "a time-tested right" that everyone in Hawaii has the right to walk on the beach. "The city sets a dangerous precedent if it can just set up a turnstile and a cash register at a beach right-of-way."

City & County of Honolulu

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