People step in to defend public right to beaches
Rallies across the state emphasize the public's dwindling access to shorelines.
All of Hawaii's shorelines are supposed to be open to everyone. In practical terms, they aren't. Resorts and hotels, private residences, shipping facilities, gated communities and military installations all become obstacles to the ocean.
Myriad conflicts through the years testify to the inability of state and county agencies to defend consistently the public right, as defined in the Hawaii Constitution. Whether due to scant resources, lethargy, preference or surrender to revenue interests, government has slowly allowed beaches and coastal zones to be shut off.
By and large, staving off further erosion has become the work of citizens and organizations who have learned the ins and outs of laws and regulations, petitioned government, gone to court or just stood, holding signs along roads and at harbors, as they did in rallies across the state yesterday.
It is not fair to fault tourism-related industries, in which success often depends on how close to the ocean they can get, or homeowners who have the money to buy places many would covet. Investment of cash and emotion can smudge the lines between public and private sand, even though everybody knows what's what.
State and county officials -- well aware of encroachment on public shores, removal or gating paths from the roads makai and shortages of parking space -- haven't put the problem high on their to-do lists.
Until they do, protecting the public right sits appropriately with members of the public themselves, in groups or individually.
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