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Petition urges more permits for camping

    A petition asks city officials to make it easier to obtain camping permits. Merle Luafalemana, left, and Selina Nihoa started a line for permits at Kapolei Hale last night to ensure they can camp Thanksgiving weekend.

Morris and Thurston Kamealoha grew up camping along the beaches that line the Waianae Coast but now have to camp out at Kapolei Hale just to get a camping permit and want city officials to make it easier to gain overnight beach access.

As the city continues to enforce a ban on homeless beach campers, the brothers have collected 400 signatures urging city officials to grant more beach camping permits — specifically for the Waianae Coast — and have gained the support of state Rep. Maile Shimabukuro (D, Waianae-Makaha-Makua).

The brothers plan to join others tonight who were already camping out at Kapolei Hale yesterday hoping for free beach permits for the Thanksgiving weekend.

"It’s ridiculous that people have to go to these extremes," Shimabukuro said. "In the old days, people loved to camp out, before the crackdown on the homeless. It’s sad because it never used to be this way in Waianae."

Oahu has a long tradition of people lining up for days and nights to gain free overnight camping permits for one of the estimated 250 sites at 14 city beach parks.

But the phenomenon is worse for people who live along the Waianae Coast, Shimabukuro said.

The Waianae Satellite City Hall no longer issues camping permits, forcing people to travel to Kapolei Hale to camp out overnight. And homeless people have learned how to snap up city camping permits, Shimabukuro said.

"The homeless compete for the regular permits that are available," she said.

She is urging city officials to issue more permits and install more bathrooms and parking spaces.

"There’s a lot of pristine coastline with no bathrooms, no parking," Shimabukuro said.

City officials did not respond to requests for comment yesterday.

Shimabukuro released an e-mail she received from city Parks Director Les Chang that said city officials are developing an online permitting process that "should help minimize long lines and provide a more equitable opportunity for those seeking a recreational camping permit."

Chang wrote, "Although the Leeward Coast is mostly a beach park, there aren’t too many locations that are conducive for designated recreational camping. … The other limiting factors are limited parking, suitable comfort stations and high day-use demand for the areas. … We have new camping sites at undeveloped park locations in our long-range plans; however, it will take significant capital funds to develop the needed infrastructure that is needed."

The Kamealoha brothers made the decision to circulate their petition in August, when police told them to leave a beach they call "Depots" during a birthday/fishing party for Thurston, 28, the father of an 11-year-old daughter and 6-year-old son.

During his party, Thurston said, "I was talking to my kids about how the Hawaiians used the stars for navigation. That’s what my brother and I learned growing up because of our culture as Hawaiians."

As the adults fished, the children rested in tents that Honolulu police officers told the brothers made their party illegal. "From that time, my brother and I said to each other, ‘We have to do something about this,’" Thurston said.

Their grandparents Louise and Joseph Manuel took them camping along the Waianae Coast seemingly every holiday, school break and three-day weekend. "It didn’t matter, as long as you cleaned up after yourself," Thurston said. "We want to give more Waianae Coast families a chance at a prime location so their kids have a nice place to swim. We want to instill the traditional, Hawaiian family values that our kupuna instilled in us."

Morris, 36, wants his two children "to have the same memories we do," he said. "We had too much fun back in the day, crab hunting, sitting around the bonfire … everything that goes along with camping."

He has waited in line for a permit, only to be told they were all issued.

"We need rules," Morris said, "but we need to make more spots available."


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