Few problems, few boats at Kaneohe Bay sandbar for Statehood Day weekend

By Ben Gutierrez - bio | email

KANEOHE BAY (HawaiiNewsNow) - There were a few clouds and an occasional incoming squall at Kaneohe Bay Saturday, the second day of the three-day Statehood Day weekend. And it was also very quiet on the Ahu o Laka sandbar -- which is how the state Department of Land and Natural Resources liked it.

The quiet comes in part from the DLNR's emergency rules that took effect at the end of June, prohibiting alcohol, drugs and disorderly conduct on the popular sandbar in Kaneohe Bay during three-day holiday weekends. Those rules were put into effect after recent fights and other violent incidents there.

"Well, it doesn't look like much people out here this weekend," said Maliko Morris of Hope Chapel Kaneohe Bay. "I mean, I expected more."

Morris' church was holding its second annual gathering at the sandbar Saturday. And instead of loud music and drinking and fights, there was the scene of church members forming a circle in the water to pray before having lunch.

"I've actually had personal friends who've been involved in incidents recently that caused the stricter enforcement rules," said church college pastor Rob Wurlitzer. "So I'm glad that that's happening."

The quiet scene is a big change that the DLNR's Division of Conservation and Resources Enforcement (DOCARE) is encouraging.

"We have noticed a lot more families," said Guy Chang of DOCARE. "We've had people approach us that told us that they haven't taken their family out there for a couple of years, and now they're starting to go back out there. So this is exciting."

Those families probably couldn't help but notice the presence of several DOCARE officers and sheriff's deputies, both at the sandbar and at Heeia Kea pier.

The DLNR is working on permanent rules to keep peace in the bay while the emergency rules remain in effect for 120 days, through October. But the temporary measures appear to have prevented violence and disorderly behavior, and have allowed DOCARE officers to issue occasional safety reminders to recreational boaters.

"We've been doing some boarding, educating people on recreational boating safety and equipment," Chang said. "We've been doing some enforcement here in the harbor, but it's been really quiet. People have been complying with the rules so far."

"I think its much safer if there's no alcohol on the sandbar," Morris said. "I think it makes it just more safe for everyone."

While the Statehood Day weekend has been quiet, another real test for the rules will come up Labor Day weekend.

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