WAIKIKI (KHNL) -- A controversial plan to make people pay to park near an Oahu beach just took another heated turn.
The state is thinking of charging for parking at Ala Wai Boat Harbor. The first of several statewide public hearings kicked off Wednesday evening.
Parking is free at the Ala Wai harbor, but if the state gets its way, the public must start paying county rates for a stall, and that's not sitting well with those who go to the beach regularly.
Soaking in the scenery may soon come with a price tag.
"I don't think people should have to pay to go to the beach. That's my ultimate concern," said Catherine Pudwill, a beachgoer.
"I'm concerned for the surfers, to be able to have a place to park," said Marjorie Snodgrass, a boater.
Concerns were expressed during a public hearing at Jefferson Elementary School.
"There's some confusion. We are not charging for access to the beach. The area that people use for beach access, all 130 stalls will remain free and open to the public," said Department of Land and Natural Resources Chairperson Laura Thielen.
What would no longer be free are the stalls inside the harbor area.
DLNR also wants to increase permit parking rates. Under the plan, boaters would see a fee hike of more than $23 per month.
"It's just ridiculous. I'm retired. I cannot afford this kind of stuff," said John Travis, a boater.
"The harbor users for years have been asking for repairs and they need them, so we're replacing the docks now but these are tens of millions of dollars in that we have to do repairs," said Thielen.
DLNR says raising parking permits from $1.67 a month to $25 a month is fair, but opponents say all public access to the beach and the harbor should remain priceless.
Another reason DLNR wants to change parking rules is because of problems, including reports of non-harbor users, such as construction workers and nearby employees, taking up stalls, and activities taking place at the harbor after hours.
DLNR says charging for parking will address those issues.