First, it was the large gatherings with no masks or social distancing at a Maui beach for drum circle parties, in clear violation of COVID-19 restrictions, along with illegal alcohol and blatant nudity.
Now it’s vandalism.
State park officials earlier this month shut down Puu Olai Beach, also known as Little Beach, at Makena State Park, to stop the superspreader events on Sundays they said were attended by hundreds. They installed fencing at a path leading to the beach, and put up closed signs.
Today, officials from the state Department of Land and Natural Resources discovered that vandals cut through the steel posts of the fence and gate put up to close the beach, most likely with power tools. The vandals also discarded the signs, poles and fencing into the ocean.
State workers were able to retrieve them, and believe they can weld the fencing and gate back together. The incident, meanwhile, is under investigation by DLNR’s Division of Conservation and Resources Enforcement.
“This behavior is not only destruction of government property, but whomever did this misses several important points,” said State Parks Administrator Curt Cottrell in a news release. “First, the barrier was put up because many people were simply ignoring current COVID-19 mandates at their own risk. Secondly, this kind of senseless vandalism is an assault on everyone who pays taxes in Hawaii. These materials and the labor to install these barriers are not cheap and now we’ll have to spend limited staff resources on putting the gate up again.”
Officials said select state parks have been closed as a last resort to help stop the spread of coronavirus via large gatherings.
Last fall, for instance, Polihale State Park on Kauai was closed for several months after an estimated 1,000 people gathered there over the Labor Day weekend, but has since reopened.
Cottrell said today’s vandalism will likely delay options that were being explored to reopen Little Beach.
“We understand many folks on Maui want Little Beach reopened, but in good conscience we cannot do so as long as some people continue to misbehave, break the law, and endanger the health and safety of those around them,” he said in a statement. “These actions reduce our confidence that once we do reopen we’ll see compliant and responsible behavior.”