‘It’s for everybody’: Hundreds turn out for Waipio Valley ocean access rally
WAIPIO VALLEY (HawaiiNewsNow) - Hundreds of Big Island resident turned out today for a rally at the Waipio Valley Lookout, urging the county to ensure access to the valley and its nearby coastlines.
The rally was organized by Malama I Ke Kai O Waipio, which has sued the county to reopen the Waipio Valley Road.
“We’ve seen the ocean access taken away for private interests. Just don’t want that to happen here. It’s under our Constitution — it’s for everybody and we want to keep it that way,” said Steve Strauss of Malama I Ke Kai O Waipio.
The road was closed more than seven months ago due to rockfall and erosion hazards.
The group said the closure was illegal because it stopped people from entering the valley for spiritual and cultural practices and because it cut off access to the ocean.
The county is now allowing residents, cultural practitioners and permitted tour companies to use the road to get into Waipio Valley.
But some worry that too much access too soon will spoil the valley and more repairs are needed before mass traffic can resume.
The Waipio Valley Ohana recently set up “kupuna checkpoints” at the top of the roadway to keep most people out. They said the valley needs more time to heal from over use.
“It’s not about denying beach access. It’s not about stopping tourism,” said Darde Gamayo of the Waipio Valley Ohana.
“What we are focused on is the road and the road issues, and the safety of our children, and our families.”
Residents said that access will happen, but perhaps not right away. They plan to keep the kupuna checkpoint going through October.
“We don’t not want to share it,” said Gamayo. “So as far as how long — I don’t know.”
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