HANAUMA BAY (KHNL) -- There was a time when Hanauma Bay was literally loved to death. People flooded the waters, destroying coral reefs and harming marine life.
A different scene now, thanks to a joint effort between the City and County of Honolulu, University of Hawaii, and Friends of Hanauma Bay.
That plan is now entering its 18th year, and although it has brought the nature preserve back to life, its caretakers say there's still one vital element still missing at Hanauma Bay.
It still happens today. Visitors sitting, even walking on coral at Hanauma Bay. But this no-no happens less frequently.
The difference is clear in these old pictures taken when 9,000 visitors used to flood Hanauma Bay. People trampled the reefs, parked their cars on lawns, sometimes blocking roads, and polluted the waters.
"It's wrong to feed fish Funyuns, and bread and peas and corn and things of that nature and it also attracts the wrong type of fish," said Robin Bond, the author of the Hanauma Bay General Management Plan.
Bond is now retired, but at the time he wrote the plan, he worked for the city parks department. The city implemented the plan in 1990 to restore the bay back to its original state.
By restricting the number of visitors, from 9,000 to 3,000 per day, closing one day a week for maintenance, and assigning a manager to watch over the bay, this precious landmark has made a healthy transformation.
"I found coral heads beginning to grow back in areas that they weren't before because people were standing on them," said Bond.
But Bond says their work is not done. He says the challenge now is reversing Hanauma Bay's reputation.
"It's more for the tourists. I used to go when I was younger but not anymore because it's too crowded," said Honolulu resident Len Kekoa.
Until residents begin to come back and enjoy the bay, Bond says the mission to save it will remain incomplete.
"This is a local preserve, it's for the people of Hawaii," said Bond.
To help attract residents, admission is free for them. Also, Hanauma Bay holds moonlight snorkeling the first Saturday of the month. The beach stays open until 10. The idea is to provide off-peak tourist hours.
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