The saga of the public access to transit the shoreline on the walkway topping the Diamond Head sea wall seems to have reached closure, at least for now.
The wall runs for about 100 yards in front of oceanfront homes to link the city of Honolulu’s Leahi and Makalei beach parks. Without any fanfare, new metal signs providing warning and other notification recently appeared, on poles about 6 feet high, near the entrances to the walkway in each park.
Signs had been a next step projected by Michele Nekota, director of the city Department of Parks and Recreation, following its removal of two controversial fences it had erected at either end of the path last year on Christmas Eve, blocking access due to public safety concerns.
In May 2018, the city had paid $275,000 to settle a negligence claim by an elderly Honolulu resident who alleged she was injured in 2012 when she fell through a gap in the railing on the Leahi park side of the walkway, which runs about 6 feet above a sliver of rocky beach.
On Jan. 10, after fielding public complaints for 17 days, DPR removed the fence from the Makalei end of the walkway but left the fence standing on the Leahi side until Feb. 10, when the public regained full access.
On the morning of June 25, Alexi Drouin, who lives nearby, said he saw city DPR trucks parked in the Leahi park and two workers “doing some work by the entrance of the sea wall.” Later that day, he saw cement had been laid around loose steppingstones there, and that new blue signs had been erected in each park.
The Leahi sign reads, “Notice: Access to Makalei Beach Park by way of sidewalks along Diamond Head Road,” and the Makalei sign references sidewalk access to Leahi Beach Park.
On July 2, warning signs were added. A sign at the Leahi entrance warns, “Danger: uneven pavement, stay off of seawall,” while signs in both parks read “Warning: waves break on ledge, you could be swept off, injured or drowned,” beneath a graphic illustration.
On Friday, asked if she’d noticed the signs, “What signs?” Kiyo Matsumoto said as she stepped off the walkway into Makalei Beach Park.
“I guess I was too busy watching my step,” she added with a laugh.
Dirck Nordhoff, an area resident, said he had seen the Leahi signs but hadn’t paused to read them.
Nordhoff said his main concern had been the fences and restoring coastal access. “I guess they just want to make sure it’s safe,” he said of the signs.
But Drouin had his doubts. “It’s better,” he said, “(but) I would not exactly call this much safer than before, since they have not extended the rail” across the Leahi gap.
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