Maui lawmaker denounces 'privatization of the public beaches' at Kaanapali
KAANAPALI, MAUI (HawaiiNewsNow) - Photos taken Wednesday morning, fronting the Kaanapali Alii resort on Maui, show empty cabanas lining the sandy beach between the hotel and the Pacific Ocean.
It's not the first time it's happened, and beachgoers have been calling out several other area hotels on social media for blocking public beach access.
"It's a complete privatization of the public beaches," said Rep. Angus McKelvey (D-Lahaina, Kaanapali, Kapalua, Maalaea, Kihei, North Kihei).
McKelvey says he was shocked after Hawaii News Now first aired a story on Tuesday about rows of unattended beach chairs that were blocking public access. The next day, he says he sent a letter to the chair of the Department of Land and Natural Resources, Suzanne Case, demanding regular enforcement.
"This is how the wild wild west develops. People start taking liberties and things like this happen when there's going to be no enforcement," he said.
Kaanapali Beach is in an ocean recreation management area, where administrative mandate that 'the renting of beach chairs, cabanas, and umbrellas may be permitted from private property, but no equipment will be permitted to be pre-set on Kaanapali Beach.'
Any equipment rented from private property, the rules say, can only be set up on the beach when the renter is present for immediate use. The state's other ocean recreation management area is Waikiki, where presetting of beach chairs is also not allowed.
On Saturday, state officers launched an investigation at Kaanapali Beach. In a statement, the DLNR wrote that "it responds to complaints, and periodically enforces these rules, but does not have the manpower to enforce on a daily basis."
"They don't really have the manpower to come down and be a regular presence on the beach to make sure that these policies are being upheld," said Kai Nishiki, a Lahaina resident who launched the Facebook page "Access Denied."
McKelvey says lack of manpower isn't acceptable – while there may be vacancies for state resource officers, he says the legislature funded monies for managing areas like Waikiki and Kaanapali.
"They (DLNR) are supposed to be regularly patrolling it and making sure the rules of the road as they say are being followed," he said.
The DLNR would not comment about its investigation. Kaanapali Alii resort has not returned our phone calls.
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