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Recreationists react to closures of city and state parks, beaches and campgrounds

  • JAMM AQUINO / JAQUINO@STARADVERTISER.COM
                                Five-year-old Kalle Leonard played soccer while enjoying the last minutes of sunlight Thursday at Kapiolani Park in Waikiki. Mayor Kirk Caldwell reinstated the closure of all parks and beaches starting Saturday.

    JAMM AQUINO / JAQUINO@STARADVERTISER.COM

    Five-year-old Kalle Leonard played soccer while enjoying the last minutes of sunlight Thursday at Kapiolani Park in Waikiki. Mayor Kirk Caldwell reinstated the closure of all parks and beaches starting Saturday.

Honolulu’s outdoor recreationists young, old and in between expressed disappointment and frustration following Thursday’s announcement that city and state parks, beaches and campgrounds would be closed Saturday through Sept. 4.

“I was surprised and sad,” said Adrien DeGreef, 13, of his reaction when he heard the news at his soccer team’s practice in Waialae Iki park, which would be their last practice for at least four weeks, under the mayor’s and governor’s new decrees.

“It’s too bad, because he loves soccer and it has been a life saver,” said his mother, Malia Ukishima DeGreef, who has been working full-time remotely at home. “It brings him so much joy to be able to be with other children his age, to be out and exercising. Thank goodness he has surfing, too.”

DeGreef said the family, including her husband, Xavier DeGreef, and Adrien’s sister, Lea, 10, loved to swim at the beach adjoining Makalei Beach Park at Diamond Head, and she felt fortunate they and the rest of the public would still be allowed to cross through parks to exercise in the water, even though it would once again be forbidden to linger in the parks or on the sand.

They’ve seen a lot of large gatherings and tents along the beaches and in the parks, “and that kind of worried me, because (the authorities) say that’s how the virus is spreading.”

It seemed to make sense to ban large gatherings, but not individual and small group exercise in the parks, she said. “People need to be able to go out and exercise and keep sane.”

Honolulu native Sean Steele, who had just come in from surfing at Suicides off Makalei Beach Park, said the closures “don’t really affect me, I just surf.”

But like DeGreef, Steele said he felt sorry for those who don’t surf or swim in the ocean and who depend on public parks and hiking trails as places to exercise and enjoy nature.

“Can we still get in the water?” was the first thing champion bodysurfer Mark Cunningham said when he heard the news from a reporter who called for comment. “We can? Very good.”

Although parking lots in parks would be closed, “I’ll park on the shoulder of Kalanianaole Highway for Makapuu or Sandy Beach and walk farther if waves are good, the retired Honolulu City and County lifeguard said. “And I’ll be respectful of city and state laws during this period of being closed.”

In the section of Kapiolani Park mauka of Paki Avenue, Christy Stanton and a roommate were stretching and exercising on mats 6 feet apart beneath the trees, alone in a wide expanse of grass.

“I understand about the need to stop the virus from surging, but I think parks are where people can exercise and keep social distance in small household groups — we need it especially when people aren’t working and are cooped up,” Stanton said.

“I also surf and run, so at least there’s that,” but a park was special, “so peaceful, such a good place to wind down at the end of the day,” she said.

For a foursome of tennis players at the Kapiolani Park tennis center, however, the shutdown meant total deprivation from their only active exercise.

“It’s unfair,” said Anne Shovic. “Good tennis players don’t get closer than 6 feet, and we’re outdoors.”

“We have no other options,” said her partner, Paul Chun, while from across the net fellow players Phyllis Tsukayama and Lisa Hankis volubly agreed.

DeGreef said she was also sad that camping had shut down. Her family had gone to a permitted camp ground at Malaekahana state park to celebrate Father’s Day, she said, “and it was packed, but people were keeping social distance from other households, and the numbers of infections were so low back then.”

They felt safe and happy, she said. “Those were the good days.”

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