It’s unclear when thousands of tourists will once again be arriving daily at Daniel K. Inouye International Airport — but a pace of hundreds is likely continue until Sept. 1, when the state’s pre-travel testing program is now slated to get underway.
The program’s recent postponement from Aug. 1 opens wide a summertime window for residents to enjoy Hawaii’s beaches and waters, hiking trails and other attractions that are usually packed with visitors from elsewhere. One go-to that closed in March, due to COVID-19 concerns and has yet to reopen, is Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve.
Earlier this week, when the city Department of Parks and Recreation announced the latest round of coronavirus-prompted cancellations — Foster Botanical Garden’s Midsummer Night’s Gleam and the 80th Annual Na Hula Festival at Kapiolani Park among them — the reopening of Hanauma Bay was among those tantalizingly listed as “pending.”
In the absence of snorkelers tucking into the turquoise coral-laced shoreline, scientists and others say it seems that the water is clearer and more fish and other marine life are regularly cruising the bay. That’s not surprising, given that before the closure, the site was drawing an average 3,000 visitors a day (except when closed on Tuesdays, Christmas and New Year’s).
There must be a way for Honolulu Hale to now reopen this gem to residents in some capacity.
It’s understood that the preserve is dedicated to safeguarding fragile marine life. And Hanauma is not in the beach park lineup — sites tailored for several types of “beach sport” activities. But the count of visitors can be easily managed, and the crescent beach is fitted with lifeguard posts that can be used to help enforce COVID-19 physical distancing requirements and environmental protections.
A measure advancing before the City Council would slightly increase entry and parking fees for nonresidents; and impose larger fees on “motor carriers” — $40 for those carrying 26 or more passengers. The Council should support Bill 44, and reserve the bump in revenue for Hanauma ocean safety upgrades and carrying capacity studies.
Addressing the now-refreshed bay conditions at a recent Council Budget Committee meeting, city Parks Director Michele Nekota said: “We really want our locals to participate and to visit the bay. … It looks so beautiful, and we’re excited to have everyone to come back.”
We’re looking forward to the reopening. Make it happen, Mayor Caldwell — and Governor Ige.
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