POSTED: Saturday, April 18, 2009

Question: White Plains Beach is one of those beaches most frequented by locals. It's also one of the friendliest places for surfers no matter what their levels are. The parking lot on this beach used to be a high-theft area, but security has been increased recently, and this has become one of the safest areas to leave your vehicles while you play.

One of the changes in policies, however, seems not to make any sense, especially for surfers. This beach used to be open from dusk to dawn. This was changed to 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Since a few months back, police officers have been chasing surfers and swimmers out of the water at exactly 6 p.m. I would like to stress that White Plains is a SURFING beach.

Anybody who surfs knows that the best times to surf are either early in the morning or late in the afternoon. Yet we are being chased away at exactly 6 p.m. when the sun is still way up. This will go on until the end of April when the closing time changes to 8 p.m. However, since March, sunset has been way after 6 p.m. and could be 7 p.m. by the end of this month.

Why can't they revert back to the old policy of opening the beach from dusk to dawn like all other beaches in the state?

Who pays for the officers who chase surfers and swimmers away every day?

There are at least two patrol cars that do this every day. But these new policies and the way they are implemented are really causing a lot of resentment among regulars on this beach. I hope they stop treating us like a bunch of thugs and focus instead on fighting crime that has been steadily increasing in our neighborhoods.

Answer: Although most of Kalaeloa (formerly Barbers Point Naval Air Station) has reverted back to the state, White Plains Beach remains under Navy jurisdiction.

The officers at the beach are with the Navy, not the Honolulu Police Department.

The good news from the Navy is that it will increase public access by four hours.

The bad news for afternoon surfers is that the hours won't be broadened until May.

“;We will be modifying the access in the public's favor next month,”; from the current hours of 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. to 8 p.m., said Terri Kojima, deputy director of public affairs for Navy Region Hawaii.

The plan always was to extend the hours to 8 p.m. beginning in May and continuing through September, she said. But because being “;a good neighbor was important to us,”; the decision was made to also open the beach two hours earlier in the morning.

These new hours will be tested on a trial basis.

(From October through April, the hours will revert back to 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.)

The current public access hours were put into effect about a year ago for security and public safety reasons, Kojima said. As you noted, safety has improved considerably.

“;Since then, the beach and parking areas have become a safer place for our community members, with less illegal activities, such as thefts, assaults, trespassing and disorderly conduct,”; Kojima said.

“;While security and safety continue to be a high priority ... at the same time we take the desires of our community members very seriously.”;

Because of that, she said, Navy officials took another look at the policy and will modify the hours.

The new hours will continue through September if there are no increases in “;criminal and undesirable activities,”; Kojima said. If those activities again become an issue, the hours will be reduced.

Kojima says the Navy has no plans to cut off or limit public access in general, except when heightened security or other Navy considerations come into play (the day after the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, for example).