Council seeks to limit guided tours to Waimanalo beaches

Council seeks to limit guided tours to Waimanalo beaches
Published: Aug. 25, 2016 at 9:09 PM HST|Updated: Aug. 25, 2016 at 9:33 PM HST
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(Image: Hawaii News Now)
(Image: Hawaii News Now)

WAIMANALO, OAHU (HawaiiNewsNow) - The City Council is eyeing stricter regulations on commercial activity at Waimanalo beaches.

A bill under consideration is aimed at addressing an influx of tourists who are making their way to East Oahu as part of organized guided tours. An earlier version of the measure would have prohibited everything from filming to hosting wedding ceremonies, but those proposed restrictions were dropped.

Instead, Council members are seeking to limit the number of guided tours allowed in the area to five companies, which would each be permitted to take one, 15-passenger van at a time to Waimanalo Beach Park on weekdays.

All other beaches in the area would be off limits to commercial tours.

Councilman Ikaika Anderson, who represents the area, says community members are frustrated by a lack of parking, resources and access as a result of the increased commercial activity.

"Our residents are not able to enjoy the beach parks to the extent they feel they should be able to because they feel that they are being pushed out by some of these commercial activities," he said.

On Thursday, supporters and opponents of the measure testified before the City Council, which deferred a vote on the bill so council members could review it further and meet with potentially affected parties.

Makani Christensen, who owns Keawe Adventures, said Bill 8 is penalizing legitimate businesses.

"Running a small business in Hawaii isn't easy already," she said. "It's one of the toughest things to do because of all the permits and the system that we currently have.

But resident Ciera Obando, who supports Bill 8, said the restrictions aren't aimed at closing businesses.

"It's not that we don't want to share, but just don't be profiting and taking advantage of something that's not really yours in the first place," Obando said.

Officials agree there is a clear need to balance the use of public parks for private enterprise.

City Parks and Recreation Department Director Michele Nekota testified in support of the bill.

But, she added, "it would be preferable if policies were uniformed applied throughout the entire island at all of our nearly 300 parks."

Some believe the increase in visitor traffic became an issue when a similar commercial activity ban went into effect in Kailua and Lanikai, essentially, displacing tour groups into neighboring communities.

Now some are concerned this bill would force an influx of visitors into areas like Kahala and Hawaii Kai.

"What's proposed now is unclear. It's a patchwork. And it creates a domino effect," said Charles Hunter, a Hawaii Kai resident. "I don't think it's right to shut down all busing or van activity down the entire east side."

Unlike other beach parks, Makapuu, Kaupo, Kaiona and Waimanalo are owned by the Department of Hawaiian Homelands.

The city has a lease agreement to oversee them. However, DHHL only allows the city to issue commercial permits for non-profit community events. All "for profit" activities are already prohibited under DHHL guidelines.

"These are things that have been overlooked for way too long and it's time to kokua the community," said Kukana Kama-Toth, a Waimanalo resident who supports Bill 8. "I understand that we need to create revenues. We have to create jobs and those kinds of things, but what about the lifestyles and livelihoods of these communities that these companies come into to gain profit off of?"

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