Protestors Call for Better Beach Access

Roxanne Darling
Roxanne Darling
Trudy Moncrief
Trudy Moncrief
Eric Po'ohina
Eric Po'ohina

KAILUA, Oahu (KHNL) -- Protestors throughout the state hit the streets to call attention to beach access. They say more and more new developments are closing off paths to public beaches, and they want them back. We start off with reaction from windward Oahu.

Kailua has some of the most beautiful beaches on the island, but folks who live there say new developments are making it harder for them to get to public beaches.

"No more gates! No more gates!"

Angry Kailua residents chanted, held up signs, and encouraged drivers to show their frustration over the growing lack of access to public beaches.

"When you look at one instance, it doesn't look so bad," said Roxanne Darling, a Kailua resident. "But when you start looking at the aggregate of how many accesses are being lost, we have a problem now."

Protestors lined a stretch of Kalaheo Avenue, a main thoroughfare for beach access in Kailua.

Roads like L'Orange Place are at the heart of the issue. Once public, this road is now private, blocking access to people who don't live on this street.

Last August, the L'Orange Place Community Association put up a gate at the makai end of the street. Fifteen out of 16 homeowners favored the proposal. Only Trudy Moncrief and her husband Robert, who have lived on the street the longest, voted against it.

"We're independent thinkers and we've lived on this street for 38 years, and we didn't see any reason for the gate," said Trudy Moncrief.

Since their public opposition to the gate, they've faced backlash from their neighbors.

"An officer has told us we are going to be ostracized and we have been ostracized and we are persecuted," said Trudy Moncrief.

Neighbors have threatened to change the combination to the beach access gate, and not tell the Moncriefs, even though they have rightful access.

But the L'Orange gate and others like it may be illegal.

In 1995 the Hawaii Supreme Court ruled native Hawaiians have "gathering and cultural rights on private property" in Public Access Shore Hawaii (PASH) vs. Hawaii County Planning Commission. The high court added, "Hawaiian custom and usage have always been a part of the laws of this state."

Eric Po'ohina, a longtime Kailua resident and a direct descendent of King Kamehameha the Great's family, said this law goes back to days of the Hawaiian Kingdom.

"You can trace it back to the Great Mahele and the Kauikeaouli, King Kamehameha III," said Po'ohina. "He sanctioned the rights of way for indigenous Hawaiian people to go fishing or to go gathering in the mountains."

The Great Mahele was a Hawaiian land redistribution act enacted in 1948, which allowed commoners to petition for ownership of land.

Despite new developments closing off once public access to beaches, Po'ohina remains optimistic.

"Obviously if you look at this crowd, the aloha is still alive," he said. "They're fighting for what is basically aloha to have people have access to the beach."

None of the other homeowners at L'Orange Place was available to talk to KHNL News.  In fact, a security guard made sure media did not trespass onto the street.

Homeowner association president Rich Carvill, who spearheaded the effort to install the limited access gate, had no comment.

Those who favor the gate have said in the past that a public access way on their street could increase crime and trash in their neighborhood.

Protestors held similar rallies on other parts of the island and the rest of the state.

On Oahu's north shore, folks lined Kamehameha Highway, calling for better beach access near Turtle Bay Resort and other parts of the area. Despite the wet weather, protestors came out to make their voices heard.

"They're passionate about it," said Tim Vandeveer, a protestor. "And they're willing to turn out in conditions like this, and voice their support for positive change. I also think it's important to say we support Turtle Bay as it is."

"We're trying to keep it green for everyone around the world, not just the people that live here," added Mark Cunningham, another protestor.

Their goal is to keep new developments from encroaching on the rights of people. Similar protests occurred on the neighbor islands.

To find out more about the Hawaii Supreme Court law that grants people access to public beaches and other information about beach access, click the links on this page.