POSTED: 1:30 a.m. HST, Oct 28, 2010
Question: What is the status of the beach access point near China Walls in Portlock that was closed by the city in June 2009?
Answer: The access point remains closed. However, in July, the City Council approved $35,000 for planning and design of repairs to the stairway. Collins Lam, acting director of the Department of Design and Construction, said the city plans to hire a consultant to start the design phase and an environmental assessment.
Repairs will likely take a while, as the project has yet to go through the procurement process. Les Chang, director of the Department of Parks and Recreation, said the design has to meet standards of the American with Disabilities Act.
The city is looking for a long-term solution. "We intend to do what we can to fix it. We're not going to just patch it together," said Chang.
The city closed the access point, designated as "120B," because of hazardous conditions, including deteriorated concrete stairs and a corroded 4-foot metal ladder and railing.
That spurred complaints by some who frequent the spot, saying it's the safest access to get out of the water, especially when the water is rough.
A 6-foot chain-link fence along Hanapepe Loop that leads to the point remains locked, but that doesn't deter surfers from using it, said Waikiki resident Margarita Finke, who frequents China Walls.
They climb over the fence or use alternate accesses, such as Koko Kai Mini Beach Park, at the cul-de-sac of Hanapepe Place.
But the sharp, rocky cliff at Koko Kai can be a challenge when climbing out of the water with a surfboard. "It's not easy," Finke said. "If you're not careful, the waves will bash you into the wall."
Rob Burns, founder of Local Motion, who has been surfing at China Walls for more than 40 years, described the area as the most dangerous surfing spot on Oahu's South Shore, mostly frequented by experienced surfers.
According to the book "Hawaii Place Names" by retired Honolulu Deputy Fire Chief John R.K. Clark, surfer Richard Okita, who was learning about the Great Wall of China at the time, named the spot China Walls "to describe the length of the waves on a big day."
With a finger rock that juts into the ocean and a flat, shallow reef next to it, Clark said, "The access point is the only place along the Portlock sea cliffs where you can walk out of the water."
This update was written by Rosemarie Bernardo. You can write to us at What Ever Happened to ..., Honolulu Star-Advertiser, 500 Ala Moana Blvd., Suite 7-210, Honolulu 96813; call 529-4747; or e-mail cityeditors@ staradvertiser.com.