Public forum to address future of Waikiki beaches
The Waikiki Beach Community Advisory Committee recently held its inaugural meeting and is launching a community forum to address the critical beach issues at Kuhio Beach and other Waikiki beaches.
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Leigh Hooke, a visitor from Sydney, Australia, watched her kids closely as they frolicked near a large swath of Kuhio Beach that is off-limits due to hazards from exposed concrete.
“It’s very, very rocky there,” Hooke said. “The danger signs are a concern for the four kids in our holiday party. The beach is very, very important. It’s one of the main reasons Australians come here. I hope they’ll fix it soon.”
The erosion at Kuhio Beach, made worse by summer’s king tides and elevated sea levels, is the worst it’s been in a decade, said Dolan Eversole, a scientist for the University of Hawaii Sea Grant Program, who coordinates the Waikiki Beach Special District Improvement Association.
The association, which is overseen by a 25-member advisory board, was created in May 2015 by city ordinance. Annual levies on Waikiki business owners from Ala Wai Harbor to Kaimana Beach and mauka to the Ala Wai Canal return about $600,000 to the public-private partnership, which is focused on the long-term resilience and health of Waikiki Beach.
Commercial property owners are taxed 7.63 cents per $1,000 of their assessed property value for the fund.
An umbrella panel, the Waikiki Beach Community Advisory Committee, recently held its inaugural meeting and is launching a community forum Tuesday to address the critical beach issues at Kuhio Beach and other Waikiki beaches. Set for 5 to 6:30 p.m. at the Waikiki Community Center, the meeting will provide the public with an opportunity to comment on proposed Waikiki beach management strategies and offer new ideas.
Public input will assist the committee in developing a Waikiki Beach Master Plan, called Ho‘omau O Waikiki Kahakai, which translates into “Waikiki Renews Itself,” Eversole said.
Short-term priorities could include economic studies, beach monitoring, public perception surveys and video camera research, he said. Identifying priority management actions and setting budgets also will be important, Eversole said.
An update on the state Department of Land and Natural Resources plan to replace the circa 1927 Royal Hawaii groin with a 180-foot T-head structure also is likely, Eversole said. The improvement association already had earmarked the groin as its first project and pledged to supply up to $750,000 of its funding, he said. However, if the project stalls during the vetting process, Eversole said, others projects might move ahead.
“I want to encourage anyone who is interested in the future of Waikiki Beach to attend,” said Rick Egged, Waikiki Improvement Association president. “We’ll look at differing options for sand replenishment, repairing and replacing existing infrastructure, and putting in new structures. Our goal is to restore Waikiki Beach and maintain it into the future.”
While Waikiki’s beaches are worth billions in annual visitor spending, beach erosion already has narrowed or eliminated parts of the “highly engineered urban shoreline,” Eversole said. Lack of coordinated management and insufficient capital investment also have taken a toll, he said.
“The plan should reflect the vision and priorities of stakeholders,” he said. “In the past, the approach has been piecemeal. We hope to take a holistic approach and build consensus through identifying and resolving conflicts relating to Waikiki Beach management.”
Fixing the Kuhio beach area should be one of the priorities, said Mike Davis, who was paddleboarding during a Saturday layover from his airline job.
“I would think fixing this area would be very important to Hawaii’s visitor industry,” Davis said.
For more information, visit wbsida.org.