EAST HONOLULU, OAHU (HawaiiNewsNow) - City officials are ending a long-time deal that was designed to help protect an East Oahu nature preserve while also providing access to fishing clubs.
The Bernice Pauahi Bishop Estate transferred ownership of Hanauma Bay and other parcels to the city for $1 in 1928. The deed specifies that the property be used for public recreation and public access. City officials said 'no trespassing' signs and a locked gate near the entrance are currently in place for public safety and to protect cell phone towers, FAA equipment, and other sensitive gear.
"We all know about security and 9/11 and the towers so that's truly what those 'no trespassing' signs are there for, and the path, and the gate. That's the current status, but we're going to look into all the issues that are attached to that," said Jeanne Ishikawa, deputy director of the Department of Parks and Recreation.
Several fishing clubs have had keys to the locked gate for at least 20 years to set up their poles outside of the Marine Life Conservation District. 26 organizations received formal authorization through the city's Adopt-a-Park program in the early 1990's, according to Hanauma Bay's former manager. A regular fisherman who did not want to be identified told Hawaii News Now that he and roughly 20 other anglers spend many hours cleaning up after hikers and making sure that people don't fish in protected areas.
"It's a win for the city who has all these extra eyes and ears of dedicated people who are now stewards keeping an eye on the place, doing the litter cleanup for us, doing the maintenance on the road, trimming back the bushes, and reporting violations that occur," explained Alan Hong, who retired as the manager of Hanauma Bay in 2011.
The city is now investigating complaints about illegal fishing huts in the nature preserve. Officials are also contacting the clubs to have them remove any belongings and turn in their keys.
"Keys were inappropriately issued in the past. The parks department does not issue keys to the public so we are trying to resolve that and find all the keys that were issued," Ishikawa said.
Ishikawa said it's unclear if the city will allow the fishing clubs to return.
"That hasn't been discussed yet, but again, it is not something we would encourage because of the erosion that is happening up there," Ishikawa said.
Ishikawa said city officials are now reviewing the language in the deed regarding public access.