Kokua Line: East Oahu beach suffers from chronic off-roading
Who is responsible for the beach just east of Sandy Beach Park in East Oahu? It’s outside that park, but next to it. Off-roaders are tearing up the beach there.
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Question: Who is responsible for the beach just east of Sandy Beach Park in East Oahu? It’s outside that park, but next to it. Off-roaders are tearing up the beach there. We used to see a monk seal and we worry about it, and just the overall terrible condition. It could be a nice beach but truck ruts are so deep it’s being ruined. What can be done? It’s not legal to drive on the beach there, is it?
Answer: To answer your last question first: No, it is not legal to drive on Wawamalu Beach, the area you describe, directly makai of the intersection of Kealahou Street and Kalanianaole Highway, and just east of Sandy Beach Park.
State law generally prohibits private vehicles on public beaches; county laws may apply, as in this case. Section 10-1.5 of the Revised Ordinances of Honolulu (808ne.ws/roh1015) says that “no person shall operate, park, or store or otherwise exert control over any unauthorized motor vehicle on any public beach with the exception of areas specifically designed to accommodate motor vehicles, such as paved roads for boat launchings.”
The definition of motor vehicle includes automobiles, trucks, dune buggies, motorcycles, mopeds, motor scooters and other vehicles. The prohibition exempts government vehicles carrying out official duties, such as for water rescues, law enforcement or beach maintenance.
The beach you mention, where the sand is rutted by tire tracks and native plants are depleted, is overseen by the city’s Department of Parks and Recreation — although a bill in the state Legislature would change that (more on that later).
NATHAN SEROTA, a spokesman for the parks department, said that placing barriers to prevent vehicles from reaching the beach has been discussed. The Hawaii Kai Neighborhood Board passed a resolution last October supporting the idea, as long as there is adjacent parking, off the sand. Honolulu City Councilman Tommy Waters, who represents the area, supports the concept, and promised to seek funding; exactly where to place barriers hasn’t been decided, he said.
There used to be signs on the makai side of that intersection that explicitly prohibited driving on the beach, and other readers said illegal off-roading has worsened since they disappeared. Now there are signs that say “No dumping” and “No parking beyond this point.” The earlier signs were damaged, Serota said, and DPR and the Honolulu Police Department agreed on replacements that covered more violations, including illegal car-camping.
“We urge the public to please call 911 if they observe illegal parking or driving on the beach,” he said.
HPD spokeswoman Michelle Yu said police haven’t received recent complaints about vehicles on that beach, but we saw four in our 15-minute site visit on Thursday afternoon. We tried to talk to an apparent tourist couple taking selfies next to their white Jeep, but they departed as soon as they saw us approaching.
Some of the worst damage seems to occur on Saturday nights after 9 p.m., said Michael Loftin, executive director of the nonprofit 808 Cleanups, who does regular “nighttime outreach” along that stretch.
“Everyday surfers and fishermen aren’t driving on the beach. They’re not the ones doing this. The problem I see is lifted trucks and dirt bikes,” he said. “I don’t call police on bad behavior, I just try to explain to people that we are trying to restore native plants and hope they will do the right thing.”
The off-roaders include residents and tourists; ticketing by HPD would educate and deter offenders, he said.
808 CLEANUPS has partnered with the state Department of Land and Natural Resources to restore native plants and dunes in an adjacent conservation area, the Ka Iwi State Scenic Shoreline, which keeps trucks out by using a combination of fencing, low barriers and vegetation; signs state that motorized vehicles are prohibited. Volunteers of all ages gather there Tuesdays from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. to remove invasive species and trash; go to 808cleanups.org and click on “calendar” for details on how to help.
The diligent restoration efforts have paid off and the contrast between the adjacent parcels is stark, which may increase support for House Bill 2739, HD1. The bill would expand the state conservation zone; the city’s degraded Wawamalu parcel (which is just west of the state’s restored one) would be among areas transferred to DLNR oversight if the measure passes.
Reese Liggett, who has been working through city channels for months to deter off-roading at Wawamalu, is among many environmentalists supporting the bill.
The state “has done an excellent job of barricading the natural features in its Ka Iwi Scenic Shoreline and the recovery of the natural features is a delight to see,” he said in an email. He hopes the city’s degraded section of Wawamalu can be similarly restored, regardless of which government entity takes the lead.
Write to Kokua Line at Honolulu Star-Advertiser, 7 Waterfront Plaza, Suite 210, 500 Ala Moana Blvd., Honolulu 96813; call 529-4773; fax 529-4750; or email firstname.lastname@example.org.