On a sunny Friday afternoon, 73-year-old Kapolei resident Marjorie Kalama relaxed in the shade with her husband under a lauhala tree at Kohola Lagoon 1 at the Ko Olina resort.
For many years, Kalama brought her children and her grandchildren to the lagoons in Leeward Oahu. Their regular visits there came to a halt in March when the resort shut down the public parking lots serving all four lagoons in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
More than six months later, all four parking lots were open for the first time Friday after the city and Ko Olina reached an agreement Thursday to make 111 of the 180 stalls available. The agreement came after an outcry by beach access advocates over the resort’s plan to reserve the first three lagoons for hotel guests and condominium owners and keep Ulua Lagoon 4 for public use with Thursday’s resumption of tourism.
The resort said the plan was necessary to reduce the spread of COVID-19.
Beach access advocates opposed it, emphasizing that all beaches in the state are mandated to remain open and accessible to the public.
“We heard those concerns and took those to heart and made adjustments that I think is a great solution for everybody,” said Ko Olina spokeswoman Sweetie Nelson.
All four lagoons have remained open for the public to access the ocean throughout the pandemic.
The parking lot at Lagoon 4 opened to the public Oct. 10 after Ko Olina received a violation notice from the city Department of Planning and Permitting following the months-long closure of the public parking lots.
The city issued the Oct. 8 violation notice following an inspection that found the electronic gates at the lots closed and plastic barriers blocking public access to the parking lots. The notice indicated the electronic gates that control vehicular traffic at the lagoons’ public parking areas are “not to be utilized to restrict public access to the parking areas and lagoons.”
On Wednesday the Planning and Permitting Department assessed the resort a $150 civil fine for failing to correct the violation in a timely manner. Department spokesman Curtis Lum said Friday that because the notice of violation was issued “as Ko Olina was making a good-faith effort to correct the violation by meeting with the city, we will consider forgiving the fine.”
At about 2 p.m. Friday a maximum of 10 vehicles filled each of the two 20-stall public parking lots for Kohola Lagoon 1. Beachgoers parked in every other stall as cones blocked off the other stalls.
Twenty stalls are available at parking lots at Honu Lagoon 2, 20 at Naia Lagoon 3 and 51 at Lagoon 4.
A line of eight vehicles formed on the roadway leading to the parking lot entrance of Lagoon 4 on Friday afternoon as they waited for stalls to open.
The gates at the parking lots have an auto counter to restrict entry once the maximum is reached, Nelson said.
Prior to the reopening, beachgoers had to be dropped off at the lagoons as there is no street parking at Ko Olina.
“It is so much easier,” Kalama said of the reopening of the public parking lots. “We really appreciate it in making it accessible to the local people.”
As prior to the pandemic, the lagoon public parking lots are open from sunrise to sunset.
FREE COVID-19 TESTING AT KO OLINA
>> Ko Olina resort will offer free COVID-19 testing Tuesday and Thursday for Ko Olina employees and the public. Testing will take place at the Ko Olina Center, 92-1047 Olani St., from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. on both days. The location for testing on Thursday is subject to change. Individuals are encouraged to pre-register online at doineedacovid19test.com. Print the voucher and bring it to the testing site along with a photo identification card.