CRAIG T. KOJIMA / CKOJIMA@STARBULLETIN.COM
The state Board of Land and Natural Resources, during a public meeting at the Kalanimoku Building conference room, postponed yesterday a plan to reduce free parking at the Ala Wai Small Boat Harbor. George Downing, left, a surfer, waited with others to testify against the proposed change.
Harbor parking plan put on hold
The state Board of Land and Natural Resources postponed a proposal to severely cut back free parking at the Ala Wai Small Boat Harbor after dozens of surfers and others protested that it would cripple beach access.
The board also ordered the Division of Boating and Ocean Recreation, which oversees the state's 21 harbors, to hold more public hearings before crafting a parking proposal for the harbor.
Some still were not satisfied.
"We're just very disappointed," said Melissa Ling-Ing, spokeswoman for Common Ground Hawaii, a group fighting for free beach access. "These rules (amendments) were poorly done. It's obvious. The board couldn't even make a decision. They were stuck in their own web. It's a shame."
The board passed a motion to approve the rule amendments but included a recommendation that the Boating Division receive more public input before creating a rule change for the parking at the harbor and then present the proposal to the board before implementing it.
Rules currently allow the Boating Division to charge for parking, but the division had plans to charge at most of the 1,000 or so harbor stalls while keeping only 130 stalls at the helipad, makai of Hilton Lagoon, free.
Currently there are some 400 free parking stalls at the harbor.
Dozens wearing red shirts with slogans supporting free beach access jammed the Kalanimoku Building conference room.
Opponents said the 130 free stalls would not be enough for beach users. Some said there was no parking problem or that once the constructions workers finished the job at the Hilton, the problem would go away.
Others said it was about preserving an ocean lifestyle.
"We have connections with the ocean, and basically we go there because there's free parking and free access," Ron Iwami, president of Friends of Kewalo Basin Park Association, told the board in testimony. "The ocean is what people is all about, so if you take away access, you take away the heart and soul of the people of Hawaii."
The state wanted to address the parking problem because of complaints about security. In a poll of harbor users, to which 20 percent responded, 60 percent said they preferred a parking management plan, the division reported.
Reg White, who has lived at the harbor for about nine years, was one of the few supporting parking management at the harbor during testimony, because of people doing drugs there or living in cars.
"There is no such thing as free parking," he told the board. "The minute you have improved property and you park there, somebody somewhere is paying for that parking."