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Rules for going solo on Oahu outdoor pursuits raise safety concerns

Many in the community welcomed Mayor Kirk Caldwell’s announcement Tuesday that parks, beaches and trails would reopen for activities — but with some concerns about going solo.

In the mayor’s latest order, city parks and trails will reopen for limited uses such as walking, running and biking, but only by oneself. Group activities will not be allowed. The stay-at-home, work-from-home order, meanwhile, will be extended to Sept. 23 to help stop the spread of COVID-19.

“That means individuals can go into the park to sit down, to read, to meditate, to eat lunch, sit on a beach and get a suntan, go on a hike and do everything else — run, jog, walk,” said Caldwell at a news conference fronting Honolulu Hale. “Community gardens will be open for individual gardening in your plot. All of those things would be allowed. In order to allow people to access these activities or do these activities, the parking lots will be open for the sole purpose of solo activity along the lines that I’ve described.”

Most city and state parks and beaches, along with Hawaii’s Na Ala Hele trails, are slated to reopen Thursday, officials announced, with the exception of some heavily trafficked ones such as Diamond Head State Monument and Nuuanu Pali.

Caldwell said parks, beaches and trails had to be shut down in August because of a loss of control over large gatherings of as many as 150 people, which was difficult to enforce.

“The Honolulu Police Department has done an excellent job, along with the rest of us on this island, participating and cooperating,” said Caldwell. “As a result, the next step is to slowly reopen, and that first step is parks, beaches and trails for solo activity.”

Shannon Yarber of Waimanalo, a mother of three and a small-business owner, welcomed the news of trails reopening as a step in the right direction.

Last month Yarber launched an online petition seeking the reopening of Hawaii’s hiking trails to the public so that people could still access nature, which she said was essential for maintaining physical and mental health, and which was, for many, the only affordable option.

She said there has so far been no proof of the dangers of COVID-19 transmission while hiking, which is one way for her and her kids to get outside, connect with nature and exercise.

Within just two weeks the petition was signed by 10,000 supporters, and hundreds more had signed it as of Tuesday evening.

Yarber says it would make sense for members of the same household to be able to hike together, or for a parent or caregiver to hike with children.

“You should be able to hike with members of your own family because children should be allowed access to nature as well,” she said. “That’s my hope, that the mayor considers amending it in the next day or two to include that children may hike with their parents or caregiver.”

Generally, hiking solo is not recommended, according to Ralph Valentino of the Hawaiian Trail & Mountain Club, which for safety reasons advises one to hike with either a partner or a club.

Even a veteran hiker or someone in good shape can slip and get into trouble, he said.

“It can happen to the best, and it can certainly happen to the worst,” he said.

Anyone heading out solo should opt for a well- established and well- frequented trail, he advised, and one they already know well. Hikers should file a “flight plan” with a friend or family member by letting them know which trail they are hiking and check in prior to and after completing the hike.

Barbara Bruno, also of the Hawaiian Trail & Mountain Club, said to maximize safety, this is a time to hike trails you already know rather than exploring new ones, and to hike within your limits.

“This is definitely not a time to be exploring new things or pushing your limits,” she said.

Hikers should be well prepared, bring plenty of water and check weather conditions, and also give the person with the “flight plan” instructions on what to do if they do not return on time.

In response to questions about safety, Caldwell said, “You should be hiking by yourself, but obviously, there will be other people ahead of you and behind you.”

People should be aware of what shape they are in, he said, bring a cellphone and water, and take proper precautions.

Honolulu Emergency Order – Sept. 8, 2020 by Honolulu Star-Advertiser on Scribd

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