Parking fee issue may get resolved
While reminiscing over the 14-year history of this column last Sunday, I mentioned that changes often come slowly to our state-run marinas.
As further confirmation of that point, I received an e-mail this week regarding the perennial question of whether the Department of Land and Natural Resources should charge for vehicle parking around the Ala Wai Small Boat Harbor.
As nearly anyone who is familiar with the area knows, this parking issue has been the subject of some debate ever since the old heliport closed, and apparently the question is no less contentious today than it was then.
In fact, it appears the dispute over parking may even be more heated than in past years due to an increase in the number of folks who now vie for the harbor's limited spaces.
From my casual observations, it would appear those folks include boat owners and their guests, Hawaii Yacht Club members, general beach-goers, surfers, canoe paddlers, shore fishermen, residents and staff from surrounding condos and hotels, and workers from nearby construction sites.
There are even one or two individuals who have apparently taken up residency there in camper vans.
For reasons that go unexplained, the DLNR has had parking meters along the road adjacent to the Prince and Ilikai hotels for decades. But it has never extended them into the larger parking areas where the parking is free, but without a permit, limited to 24 hours.
The Boating Special Fund pays for the upkeep, maintenance, and security of those parking lots even though the boaters who pay into it are obviously not the only ones using the stalls.
To its credit, the DLNR has been holding public hearings on a couple of proposals it is considering that would control the parking and generate revenue for maintenance.
And while there are still many details to be worked out, some sort of gated parking system will be a fact of life for those parking at the harbor in the future, with one notable exception: those using the old heliport site.
I am told parking will be free there for some 150 stalls in an apparent appeasement by the DLNR to surfers who have loudly opposed any parking fees and insisted (however illogically) such fees somehow infringe on their right to beach access.
The only change for those parking at the heliport site could be a nightly closing of the lot between 10 p.m. and 5 a.m.
DLNR management has estimated parking fees for the rest of the harbor may be as low as 40 cents per hour. However, harbor tenants, who already pay into the system, would be issued pass cards and decals for their cars that would allow them unlimited free parking.
It's usually not wise to bet on any change occurring around our state marinas, but just maybe this will be the year the question of parking fees at the Ala Wai harbor will finally be resolved.