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Victorino to Ige: Reconsider beach exercise ban

Enforcement slated Sunday for county; jurisdiction still unclear

Maui Police officers patrol Keawakapu Beach in South Maui on Saturday morning, the last day before Mayor Michael Victorino said he would enforce Gov. David Ige’s temporary ban on beach walking, jogging and other exercises. The Maui News / MATTHEW THAYER photo

There is more trouble in paradise as new statewide public health emergency rules banning beach exercise were awash with protest and confusion.

In an effort to minimize the risk of coronavirus spread, Gov. David Ige on Friday issued emergency rule updates that close all beaches to running, walking and any activity other than to cross them to get to the ocean for exercise.

However, Mayor Michael Victorino in a letter to the governor Saturday asked that the decision be reconsidered. Victorino added that he is looking forward to hearing a favorable response as soon as Sunday.

The Maui News during a media update Friday afternoon asked Victorino for his reaction to the new rules and when enforcement will take place. He gave background on the rule changes and said that the county will “vigorously enforce” the governor’s decision starting Sunday.

Meanwhile, Maui police were patrolling beaches Saturday to warn people about the new rules as petitions protesting the restrictions were swirling online.

Beach walkers enjoy Keawakapu Beach’s long stretch of sand Saturday. The Maui News / MATTHEW THAYER photo

Ocean exercises, such as surfing, solo paddling and swimming, along with subsistence activities, like fishing and food gathering, are still allowed, according to the new rules. Beaches may be crossed only for ocean access.

Since the initial wave of emergency rules went into effect weeks ago, the majority of violations have occurred on beaches, where people are continuing to congregate for social and recreational reasons, local and state officials have said.

Jurisdiction between state and county in this case remains unclear.

In shoreline permitting and coastal resource oversight, mauka of the shoreline is managed by the county; the state has jurisdiction makai of the shoreline into the ocean for three miles; and the federal government control begins three miles seaward of the shoreline.

Hawaii law defines shoreline as the upper reaches of the wash at high tide during the time of year with the highest wash of the waves. It’s also usually seen by the edge of vegetation growth or the upper limit of debris left by the wash of waves.

Mayor Michael Victorino's letter was posted on the county's Facebook page Saturday.

A state Department of Land and Natural Resources news release Saturday cast more confusion on jurisdiction.

“While the majority of beaches in the state are under State of Hawai’i jurisdiction, some are under individual counties,” it said.

Beaches under individual county jurisdictions may have different rules, the announcement added.

Many beach activities already were restricted in Hawaii. No sitting, standing, lying down, lounging, sunbathing or loitering on the coastline and sandbars were allowed, state and local officials have said. Maui County has allowed exercise on the beaches so long as people are not sedentary.

“I strongly urge you to reconsider or clarify the rules to expressly allow exercise activities to occur on the beaches,” Victorino wrote in his letter. “While I do not support stationary activity such as sitting and reading, or sunbathing on the beach, I wholeheartedly support walking and running on beaches. These activities, provided that social distancing is adhered to, allow our residents a form of physical exercise that is vital to good health.”

The majority of Maui’s public health rule violations occur at beaches, according to Maui police. There have been 21 arrests and 377 citations for violations from March 28 through Friday.

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