Kanaha park gates to be locked

Permitting process will allow fishermen, divers after-hours access

Vehicular access to Kanaha Beach Park will be blocked by two locked gates beginning Nov. 1 from 8 p.m. to 6 a.m., but a permitting process is in the works that would allow fishermen and divers access after hours, county officials said Wednesday.

Newly installed gates will be locked on Amala Place near the wastewater treatment plant and on Kaa Street, near the rental car facilities at Kahului Airport, the county Department of Parks and Recreation said in a news release. All vehicles must be removed before the gates are locked or they will be towed.

Parks Director Kaala Buenconsejo said Wednesday that blocking vehicular access overnight to the park is aimed at halting drinking, drug use and speeding — and is not necessarily intended to deal with the homeless issue at the park.

Drunken and disorderly conduct, drug offenses and assaults are reported daily and after hours to Maui police, the news release said.

“I think people will start to notice the difference right away,” said Buenconsejo.

When news of the gates first arose in September, fishermen, divers and other traditional users of the park complained about the blocking of their access at night. Darrell Tanaka, a fishing community leader, said that Kanaha is one of the last remaining easily accessible fishing spots and that fishermen are literally being “locked out” of many other traditional spots.

The fishermen, who usually fish until about midnight, worked out an after-hours parking plan with officials of the Mayor Charmaine Tavares administration about five or six years ago, he said. They have been able to fish while being able to keep an eye on their vehicles, 30 to 40 yards away.

Meetings have been held with fishermen, divers, surfers and canoe paddling groups, Tanaka and Buenconsejo said.

“Before the gate goes up, they are going to have a plan, we can get access somehow,” Tanaka said they were told by county officials at the meeting, called after concerns about the gate initially arose.

“We will be accommodating access,” Buenconsejo said Wednesday.

He said there is a tentative permitting process in the works that will allow access to the park after hours for fishing, diving and other cultural practices. Park rangers and Maui police will be monitoring the after-hours use.

“We kinda have a plan,” said Brian Yoshikawa, another community fishing leader, on Wednesday. “We are working on a plan” that will allow access to traditional users of the park. He left questions about the details of the plan for Buenconsejo to answer.

Yoshikawa did say that he was inundated with calls after the news release about the overnight park closure and locking of the gates came out Wednesday. Tanaka expressed some caution and skepticism in dealing with the county on the gate issue.

Tanaka said the “community outreach was very poor” and that the fishermen cannot be blamed for their “skepticism.”

“Reach out to us. We are the users. This is not a dictatorship,” he said.

The problems could be resolved by enforcement of rules, but the county has been unable to do so, Tanaka said. The gates are “only going to keep out the legal, law-abiding citizens.”

He noted that while vehicles may be blocked, people can still walk into the park after hours. He said he has no qualms about putting up his fishing pole next to homeless people but that he will be very upset if they are in the park and he cannot fish.

The locks on gates are a sore spot for fishermen, who are losing their fishing areas to blocked access, Tanaka said. He sees this as a fight to preserve a fishing spot for future generations and to make the statement: “We don’t want to be locked out.”

Still, they are willing to give the county a chance as they await the final plan for access, Tanaka said.

Buenconsejo said that the gates are an interim measure as the department continues work on the master plan for the park.

* Lee Imada can be reached at leeimada@mauinews.com.

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