The entrance gates to the west side parking areas at Kaena Point State Park on Oahu will reopen this weekend after being closed for more than a year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, officials announced today.
The closure was necessary, said the state Department of Land and Natural Resources, due to emergency orders aimed at limiting group sizes and ensuring social distancing.
Prior to the pandemic, the entrance gate at Keawaula on the west side was open all the time.
However, officials decided to close that gate due to lack of available enforcement, and frequent, unauthorized camping, in addition to large parties, fires, driving on the beach and other bad behaviors that they said degrade valued and sensitive coastal resources.
“We were gravely concerned based on these behaviors that people would not honor COVID-19 gathering restrictions,” said Division of State Parks Administrator Curt Cottrell in a news release. “Our law enforcement division (DOCARE) is spread thin. The park’s remote location made limiting patronage by keeping the gates closed, the most prudent action to combat the spread of coronavirus.”
Additionally, Cottrell said budget restrictions and significant loss of revenues from visitors required a “careful examination of costs.”
DLNR said it would have had to pay current staff overtime or contract with a private security company to manage gate opening and closing operations.
Starting this weekend, the Keawaula gate will be open at 6 a.m. Saturdays and 9 a.m. Sundays, and close at 7 p.m. through Sept. 30.
Since April 7, the vehicle access gate on the Mokuleia side of the park has been open.
No overnight use is allowed, and vehicles will be locked in if people do not leave on time.
State officials said that the gate will remain open if day users continue to respect rules, including current COVID protocols. If vandalism or illegal nighttime activity occurs, officials will reconsider closing the gate.
“We appreciate park usersʻ patience as we grapple with balancing public health with access and a goal to improve the protection of our coastal resources from abusive and inappropriate uses at Keawaula,” said Cottrell in the release. “There are members of the community on both sides of this issue so only time and behavior will dictate our near-term management solutions and actions.”