Surfers balk at state's closure of popular Kakaako parks

Published: Oct. 10, 2017 at 8:51 PM HST|Updated: Oct. 10, 2017 at 9:50 PM HST
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(Image: Hawaii News Now)
(Image: Hawaii News Now)

KAKAAKO, OAHU (HawaiiNewsNow) - The Kakaako homeless sweeps are creating an unexpected conflict on the waterfront, pitting the state's duty to ensure public safety in its parks with the public's right to access the shoreline.

On Sunday night, the state closed the entrances and parking lots to popular surf breaks at Point Panic, Kewalo Basin and Kakaako Gateway Park.

"I didn't know (Kewalos) was going to be closed. When I showed up with the gates closed, I was taken aback. I didn't expect no trespassing signs. I didn't expect that indefinite closure sign," said Rafael Bergstrom, an avid surfer and Oahu Chapter coordinator for the Surfrider Foundation.

"Those are highly used areas for recreation in the water and we want to make sure it's not closed for long."

Bergstrom worries that the shutdown will prompt surfers or paddlers to cross the Kewalo channel to access their favorite surf spots.

"If there's more and more people swimming through a channel where there are boats coming in and out, absolutely that is a safety issue," he said.

The Hawaii Community Development Authority closed the three Kakaako parks, with no clear date for reopening, saying they are no longer safe for the public.

Hawaii News Now visited the parks Tuesday afternoon. The gate to the entrance at Kewalo Basin was closed, and a deputy sheriff was guarding the entrance.

Surfer Josh Echemendia parked blocks away and walked, surfboard in hand, only to be turned away.

"It's a remarkable denial of access to such a precious resource, even for a week or two, why would they do this?" he said.

Closed gates also greeted would-be visitors to Kewalo Basin. But a few surfers were able to enter its waters by walking from the Ala Moana Beach.

"It's a hassle," said surfer Reed Nishimoto. "Normally we park 10 feet away, jump in the water and paddle out."

Others took the shutdown in stride.

"For me it doesn't bother me to clean it up but for others it's a pain and that's why it's kind of empty today," said Jenna Ishii, a North Shore native now living in San Jose, Calif.

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