Park users, some homeless return to Ala Moana Beach Park post-APEC

By Minna Sugimoto - bio | email

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - The barriers that were set up for the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation conference have come down and people are once again driving into Ala Moana Beach Park.

It's one of the most popular public areas on Oahu. But last week, only emergency response vehicles were allowed in.

With the return of park users, are the homeless back as well?

The state's homelessness coordinator says clearing the homeless from the park and other areas visible to conference attendees had little to do with the global event itself. It was one of the governor's priorities before taking office. He says that won't change just because APEC is over.

It's beginning to look a lot like Ala Moana Beach Park again. There was a steady stream of cars, limousines and tour buses, which were all barred from entering the park during APEC.

"There were inconveniences," Mike Cordeiro, park user, said. "But I think we all knew about it so we just had to, you know, stay away."

Newlyweds Yoshiki and Yoshie Kodo of Japan were delighted to take a photo with Diamond Head as their backdrop. A taxi driver told them it wouldn't have been possible Monday.

"What are your feelings about that?" this reporter asked in Japanese.

"We feel lucky," Yoshiki Kodo, husband, replied.

"Also because the weather is good," Yoshie Kodo, wife, replied.

Last week, wedding photographer Yuri Lau had to take couples to Kakaako, which she says offers fewer background options.

"They, I think, enjoy because they don't know what Magic Island is," Lau said. "They're just visitors, so I think we enjoy over there, too. But for me, here is more selection."

Members of Halau Hula O Namakaokalani Me Ka Mele were happy to be back at the park after having to cancel hula practice last week.

Meanwhile, the Hui Ohana Makules tennis team had a ball being back on its home court.

"We had to change the practices from here at Ala Moana down to Diamond Head," Cordeiro said.

So were the homeless also back? Very few of them had set up tents by mid-day. The state's homelessness coordinator says he hasn't received reports of a mass return of homeless people at public parks post-APEC.

"Not too much yet. I think it's still too soon," Marc Alexander, state homelessness coordinator, said. "But, you know, I think, also, we really have been for quite a few months trying to do a lot of outreach."

At the Statewide Homeless Awareness Conference, representatives from various agencies talked about staying vigilant in their efforts to reach out, help the homeless, and keep public areas -- like Ala Moana Beach Park -- public.

"That will be a challenge, just like some of the other areas that we've worked on and addressed," Alexander said. "Some people have moved back, so it's going to be something that requires a continuing effort."

Honolulu police say they'll continue to enforce night-time park closure rules.

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