Saturday, November 28, 2015         


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For some it's a dream come true; for others, Waikiki's a nightmare

By Rob Perez


Even with clogged traffic, closed streets and other security hassles affecting parts of Waikiki, Florida visitor Danielle Melton, 25, has been living a dream the past two days.

She got married at the foot of Diamond Head on Friday — 11/11/11 — and on Saturday, she and her new husband, Montie Melton, 35, had wedding photos taken with their 14-month-old daughter, Lillian.

"This has been my dream for the past 10 years," Danielle said shortly before climbing into a limousine for a ride to the photo shoot.

For Oregon resident Inna Nepochatov, 27, the past couple days have been just the opposite: a nightmare of delays and security headaches. Others have complained as well.

"There are angry tourists everywhere," she said.

The anger has been triggered by an unprecedented level of security in Hawaii's busiest tourist district the past two days, thanks to the presence of many of the world's leaders here for the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation meetings.

On Saturday, police officers, Secret Service agents and Hawaii Army National Guard members were visible throughout the area. So were concrete barriers, orange traffic cones and temporary fencing surrounding a restricted area of less than a square mile on the Ewa end of Waikiki. Military Humvees and police cars also were prominent on the streets, along with a checkpoint where bomb-sniffing dogs and equipment were used to inspect vehicles.

Along the shoreline, at least two temporary security towers were erected, while an inflatable boat with four armed officers patrolled the nearby Ala Wai Canal. Off the Hilton, two Coast Guard vessels were stationed, ensuring no one ventured into the restricted waters.

For some tourists and residents, the heavy security was understandable to ensure the safety of the many dignitaries in town, including President Barack Obama.

"I think it's the right thing to do," said Waikiki resident Parke Pendleton, 51, who was spending the afternoon on the beach with his wife, Fumie, 43, and their 3-year-old son, Kai. "We would not look very good if something bad happens to any of these people. It's an inconvenient but necessary evil."

But for Nepochatov, the hassles were too much.

On Friday night, a short walk from Kalakaua Avenue to the Ilikai Hotel, where she's staying, turned into a nearly two-hour ordeal because of restrictions in place for Obama's arrival at the Hilton Hawaiian Village next door. She had her sleeping 17-month-old baby, Isabella, with her.

At one point, she was told by an armed agent that she couldn't take a shortcut through a park because "there are snipers in there everywhere," Nepochatov said.

Alabama resident and first-time visitor James Neveu, 47, who is on a two-month work assignment in Hawaii with his wife, Genevieve, 46, was among those who criticized the security measures as unorganized. A drive of less than five miles from the Iwilei Costco to the Ilikai took 31⁄2 hours Friday afternoon, partly because Neveu was rerouted several times by security. Normally, that drive would take about 15 minutes in light traffic.

When the Neveus went to a Hilton swimming pool to visit friends, agents used metal-detecting wands to search them.

The security hassles, he said, contributed to his souring on Hawaii. "I'm never coming back here, never, ever," Neveu said.

But Melton, the newlywed, said Hawaii will forever remain the place where her dream came true.

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