After long legal battle for public access to Portlock beach, city removes private gate

Updated: May. 19, 2021 at 10:34 PM HST
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PORTLOCK, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - Sparks flew in more ways than one as city crews removed a gate that blocked a path to the beach in Portlock.

City crews used power saws to remove the gate that was put up by property owner, Bert Dohmen-Ramirez.

While crews removed the gate, Dohmen-Ramirez and his wife argued with Honolulu police, who accompanied the crews Wednesday morning.

It’s the latest chapter in a long legal dispute.

The city took control of the path next to Dohmen-Ramirez’s home after a court ruling last December, backing the city’s claim to turn it into a public easement to the beach.

“We asked them to take it down on his own. He did not. So the city sent the crew out there today with HPD, and they took it down,” said Honolulu City Council Chair Tommy Waters, who represents the area.

Dohmen-Ramirez did not respond to HNN’s request for comment, but had earlier emailed the city council, complaining of crime and vandalism due to trespassers.

He also pointed out that there are other public access points nearby. But, it’s one of only two spots in the area with a sandy shoreline.

Many were glad to see the gate go.

“Just because someone wants money, they want something their way,” said surfer John Collen, who came to see for himself. “Everybody has the right to go to the beach. Nobody can deny other people to be able to go into the water.”

“The ocean is there for everybody’s use, keiki, kupuna and everybody in between,” said Waters. “It doesn’t belong to the people who live right there, and putting up a gate is just not acceptable.”

Anne Marie Kirk of the group Liveable Hawaii Kai Hui had waited for this day for decades. She walked down the now-open pathway for the first time in more than three years, before Dohmen-Ramirez put up the latest gate.

“It’s a very surreal moment,” said Kirk. “But I want to take out the ‘surreal’ part and say, it’s real.”

Unlike previous times that the gate has come down, Kirk believes this time, the access will remain open for the community.

“It’s real today. And it’s going to be real ten years from now, 20, 30, 40, 50 years from now,” she said. “The right of way will be here.”

Even though the gate has been removed, there are still some remaining legal issues, including how much the city will pay to compensate the property owner.

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