Citing COVID-19 concerns, activists try to block visitors from Big Island’s Waipio Valley

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Updated: Nov. 19, 2020 at 5:22 PM HST
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HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - Activists on Hawaii Island who say they’re concerned about traffic jams and the spread of COVID-19 tried to block tourists from going into Waipio Valley this week.

The first incident, involving about 30 demonstrators, blocked the roadway on Tuesday to prevent people from heading into the valley.

Police eventually arrived, and after some tense moments, the encounter ended peacefully.

The demonstrators say they are concerned about a large influx of vehicles and hikers causing potentially dangerous traffic jams on the narrow road that goes in and out of the valley.

“The call on Tuesday was to bring forth people that are frustrated that want something done as far as access into the valley, not specifically just tourists, but just outside traffic,” said Darde Gamayo, a community advocate. “People that don’t have a kuleana in Waipio Valley.”

They’re also worried about COVID-19 and visitors who aren’t wearing masks.

“The biggest frustration has been they come to the lookout, they feel theyʻre outside, so they don’t have to wear a mask,” said Gamayo.

The issue of too many vehicles and hikers going down the windy road into Waipio Valley has been a point of contention within the community for years.

The Hawaii County Council is considering a bill that would essentially ban foot traffic going down the road into Waipio Valley. Exemptions would be made for residents and cultural practices.

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