Tension grows over beach access debate - Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL

Tension grows over beach access debate

Barbara Marumoto Barbara Marumoto
Melinda Dumadag Melinda Dumadag
Rich Turbin Rich Turbin

By Duane Shimogawa bio | email

KAHALA (HawaiiNewsNow) - There's growing tension along Hawaii's beaches. A bill that would force beachfront homeowners to cut back brush that grows beyond their properties is gaining momentum in the legislature.

It all has to do with the Naupaka Plant. Some beachfront property owners are encouraging these plants to grow onto state land. This leaves less beach area for the public.

Melinda Dumadag comes to Kahala Beach at least once a month. Besides its beauty, she says it's almost never crowded.

But she also notices the beach slowly disappearing through erosion and covered up by the Naupaka Plant. It's these plants that are at the root of a debate between beachfront property owners and the public.

"Public access is public access and as long as we're not destroying the land, hurting anyone or bringing unnecessary noise or things to the outside of their property, then we should have the right to use it as freely as we want to," Kaneohe resident Melinda Dumadag said.

A bill in the legislature, supported by Representative Barbara Marumoto, hopes to bring some type of compromise to both sides.

"This is a statewide problem, we feel that perhaps landowners were a little skiddish about this, I think some of them were afraid that the land department would make them landscape all the beaches," she said.

Under the proposal, homeowners who enhance their Naupaka Plants or help them grow, may face a $1,000 fine for failing to cut back the brush.

"It's really a tragedy that some homeowners have been allowing, their foliage to encroach upon the beach and prevent people from using the beach," Kahala resident Rich Turbin said.

Turbin is the former chair of the Waialae-Kahala Neighborhood Board. He says when the Naupaka Plant grows all the way to the water, it actually increases erosion.

But beachfront homeowner Rosi Rafael disagrees.

"The plants protect our beach and if you take them away, the beach will disappear more," she said.

She says she has already cut her Naupaka Plants numerous times, but it grows back fast and stops at a certain point.

"I want people to go to the beach of course and I think it will be fine, I think it's better like this, at least have some beach, if they cut, they won't," she said.

The bill passed the House and is now in the Senate. However, the penalties were removed, but the House is hoping to keep pushing to put those fines back in there.

"The beaches are such an important part of Hawaii and our culture, everybody needs to have access to the beach," Turbin said.

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