Adequate beach access is part of sustainability
Recently, we've heard encouraging talk of sustainability and seen positive steps by our elected officials that give us hope for Hawaii. One essential piece of the sustainability equation that we need to address is shoreline access.
Our oceans and beaches are precious resources that are at the root of why most of us live here. These are public areas, for all to enjoy. Families, fishermen, surfers, paddlers and countless others rely on access to our shorelines for recreational needs. Yet more and more we see areas all over our islands where beach access paths are being gated or fenced; we see ocean-side parking areas being reduced and fees being imposed; and we see land development that threatens to diminish or block access. Simply stated, it is becoming harder to reach the beach.
We must address and provide adequate beach access if we are to create sustainable communities in Hawaii. This can be done by actively using funds from the city's Clean Water and Natural Lands Fund to acquire right-of-ways with matching state funds, and by asking our state legislators to strengthen our beach access laws.
One of the latest threats to ocean access is at the Ala Wai Yacht Harbor, which has free parking for ocean users. Sure, our harbors are in disrepair and need to be better maintained. But this should not be done at the expense of access, especially in this area of Waikiki, where parking is already scarce.
The Department of Land and Natural Resources is plowing forward with plans to privatize this and other harbor areas, reasoning that fees from pay parking will add revenue for maintenance. If approved, it would greatly reduce free parking for ocean users. These plans were drawn up without adequate analysis of parking needs and fail to acknowledge the actual amount of free parking currently available.
The plans also fail to consider the newly finished Duke's Lagoon, directly adjacent the parking area. This beautifully remade area has been promoted as a focal point of Waikiki, yet no new parking spots were added. DLNR's plans lack written guarantees to keep a number of free parking spots for ocean users and lack a guarantee that parking rates will remain affordable when private parking vendors take over.
Unfortunately, all meetings on these plans were held during working hours on weekdays. The last public meeting on the parking rule changes will be the Board of Land and Natural Resources meeting at 9 a.m. tomorrow (Kalanimoku Building, 1151 Punchbowl St., Room 132). All are urged to attend. (View proposed rule changes at www.state.hi.us/dlnr/dbor/ borhearings.htm)
In old Hawaii, Waikiki was reserved for royalty. It is sadly ironic that we are now moving toward creating a Waikiki for another elite group -- tourists and the wealthy. We urge DLNR Chairwoman Laura Thielen and Gov. Linda Lingle to stop these plans until there is a true, open public review, so resident ocean users won't lose another valuable but slowly vanishing ocean access point.
Scott Werny and Marvin Heskett are co-chairmen of Surfrider Foundation's Oahu chapter.