Demonstration at ‘Turtle Beach’ underscores tensions between residents, tour buses

Published: Aug. 12, 2019 at 12:18 PM HST
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OAHU’S NORTH SHORE, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - North Shore residents held signs fronting Laniakea Beach on Sunday, saying that heavy traffic and unsafe conditions in the area must end.

The area along Kamehameha Highway is popular with visitors, and a frequent stop for tour vans and buses. All those people crossing the highway or parking in the area is just unsafe, the residents say.

“We’re here every day. And every day, without fail, we hear trucks slamming on brakes. He hear horns blasting, people yelling,” said ranch owner Jim Quitan.

Residents also said visitors need to know that Laniakea isn’t the only beach on the island to see turtles.

“You can go to Haleiwa Beach Park. You can go to Alii Beach Park. You can go to Turtle Bay Resort. And they have parking and restrooms and facilities, and it’s safe,” said Pupukea resident Bonnie Cordeiro.

Barriers had been set up to block the gravel parking area across from the beach in 2013.

But those were taken down after another group sued to have them removed.

Then earlier this month, a 10-year-old boy was seriously injured when he was hit by a vehicle while crossing the highway. The state and residents say the accident could have been prevented if the barriers were still in place.

“Short-term, the barriers need to come back because the way it is right now is total chaos. And that’s why the little boy got hit,” said North Shore resident Antya Miller.

The protest also underscored tensions between the residents and tour operators, who bring vans and buses to the area. Police were called after a confrontation between protesters and one of the tour drivers.

Another tour driver said he has a right to bring people to the beach, and parked despite the protesters.

“He kept yapping, so I open the door, I say 'please, hele aku, go wiki wiki, move. I got tourists over here. They want to go swimming,” said driver Emmsley Kealoha.

There is a working group that proposes putting a crossing guard in the area. Kealoha also suggested safer places to cross.

“If they put one, two three, four crosswalks, put signs, nobody can complain. They gotta stop. That’s the law, right?” said Kealoha.

Other residents aren’t convinced that will work.

“You know they’re just gonna run across the street wherever they park instead of where the crossing guard is unless there’s a barrier up,” said Miller.

The state recently announced that it wants to spend $7 million to move the highway slightly mauka and put parking along the beach. Everyone agrees that something needs to be done now.

“I ran for office last season, and whenever I talk to anybody in this area, they were jumping mad, so angry they said ‘I’m not even going to talk to you unless you fix this problem,’” said area resident Boyd Ready.

“It’s been 15 years. That’s long enough.”

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