Beach ban is
looming for
Maui businesses

WAILUKU >> In an effort to reduce heavy commercial use of Maui's beaches, some officials are trying to pass a law that would ban ocean recreation businesses from county parks on weekends and restrict commercial use of nine county beach parks altogether.

If passed, the bill would leave only the three noncounty beaches on Maui open to water businesses daily. One of those beaches -- Ahihi Bay -- is a state preserve.

The proposed ban is drawing outrage from those who rely on the ocean for their livelihood. A number of surf school operators, dive instructors and kayak rental companies on Maui say the law would cripple their businesses, which draw most of their customers, both visitors and residents, on the weekends.

"There's no doubt it'll probably shut mine," said Donovan Domingo, owner of Maui Dreams Dive Co., one of the largest dive shops on the island. "The divers have never used the beach. We walk by the beach. We disappear."

But supporters of the ban say the businesses crowd beaches -- driving out families, making swimmers dodge novice surfers and kayakers, and filling scarce parking spaces.

"Monday through Friday, I don't think there's a problem with commercial use," said Maui resident Ross Kaaa.

On weekends, though, residents should be able to use the parks "without having to butt heads with someone just learning how to surf," he said.

The Maui County Council's Parks and Agriculture Committee heard testimony on the ban Thursday before calling a recess until 10 a.m. today to make a decision.

If the ban passes through the committee, it will go to the full Council later this month.

The bill regulating commercial beach activities has been almost two years in the making, although the ban on businesses was not included in the original text, Domingo said. The ban was added this month, even after businesses made concessions to allow for higher beach fees and stricter regulation.

Domingo said the ban would not just affect visitors. He said that about a quarter of the 2,000 people he taught to dive last year were Hawaii residents.

Opponents of the ban have said they may sue if the bill passes.

Hanauma Bay and Shark's Cove on Oahu are the only beaches in Hawaii that now ban businesses, Domingo said.


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