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Ko Olina bans public from lagoon beaches

2008 January 31 CTY - Lagoon 2 "Honu" at the Ko Olina Resort is nearly empty of beach goers. SB photo by George F. Lee
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2008 January 31 CTY - Lagoon 2 "Honu" at the Ko Olina Resort is nearly empty of beach goers. SB photo by George F. Lee

Ko Olina Resort said it will ban the public from using Lagoons 1, 2 and 3 from Nov. 1 until Feb. 1 and will reserve the use of those beaches for hotel guests and condominium owners only.

The resort announced the new policy in a notice titled “Ko Olina Shoreline Parking Reopening Plan” dated Tuesday and sent by the resort to city and state officials and shoreline access organizations.

The resort said it will allow the public to access the beach at Lagoon 4 only. The resort also plans to reopen the Lagoon 4 parking lot, but not the parking lots at other lagoons. The resort said it will reopen all public parking and access to all four lagoons after Feb. 1.

Reciprocally, hotel guests and condo owners will be barred from Lagoon 4.

“Ko Olina has a unique opportunity to take extra safety measures to protect our community by separating best as possible our local community from our visiting hotel guests and vacation club owners,” the notice said.

The notice was sent by Sweetie Nelson, director of destination marketing for Ko Olina Resorts.

In an interview with the Star-Advertiser Wednesday, Nelson emphasized this meant public and private beachgoers would each enjoy their own exclusive area, adding that the reason for the separation was to protect public safety by limiting potential exposures and requiring compliance with the city’s current, Tier 1 rule limiting gatherings to no more than five people.

Access to Ko Olina beaches has been an issue for months.

Since Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell ordered Oahu beaches reopened May 16, the public has been able to access the shoreline and lagoons at Ko Olina Resort, but the free public parking lots provided to serve that access under a 2016 agreement between the developer, City and County of Honolulu and the state have remained closed.

The resort group’s reason for closing parking lots was that, with its hotels, restaurants and shops closed since late March, there was not enough income to maintain the restrooms, collect trash and ensure public safety, Nelson said.

In an August 4 letter to Jeffrey Stone, CEO and president of The Resort Group, LLC, Kathy Sokugawa, acting director of the city Department of Planning and Permitting, said the parking lots should be open.

“Given that public beaches are now open, access and parking associated with the beaches at Ko Olina Resort should also be open to the public,” Sokugawa wrote, but the parking lots have remained closed, according to the nonprofit Surfrider Foundation Oahu and the Free Access Coalition, which have been monitoring the situation.

Nelson also told the Star-Advertiser that the closed access to the public boat ramp at Ko Olina Marina, which has been closed since March, would reopen Monday for registered boaters “by reservation only.”

Public boater and longtime ramp user Rodney Ajifu said he hadn’t heard “this good news” from Ko Olina yet.

Public access, including dedicated public parking stalls, was a condition imposed by the state Land Use Commission for the proposed Ko Olina development in 1985.

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