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Vandals cut through fence at Little Beach

State officials recovered metal fencing that vandals apparently cut through and tossed into the ocean at Pu‘u Ola‘i, also known as Little Beach, at Makena State Park. State DLNR photos

The Maui News

Authorities are searching for vandals who cut through metal gate poles and fencing at the entrance to Pu’u Ola’i, also known as Little Beach, at Makena State Park.

The beach section was closed Jan. 5 in an effort to stop large gatherings or drum circles that were attended by hundreds of people Sunday evenings.

The vandalism was discovered Wednesday and was reported to the state Department of Land and Natural Resources’ Division of Conservation and Resources Enforcement for investigation.

“This behavior is not only destruction of government property, but whomever did this misses several important points,” said Division of State Parks Administrator Curt Cottrell. “First, the barrier was put up because many people were simply ignoring current COVID-19 mandates at their own risk. Secondly, this kind of senseless vandalism is an assault on everyone who pays taxes in Hawaii. These materials and the labor to install these barriers are not cheap and now we’ll have to spend limited staff resources on putting the gate up again.”

DLNR officials said the fence had been put up because people were gathering in large groups, ignoring COVID-19 mandates on mask wearing and social distancing.

According to a DLNR news release, vandals likely used power tools to cut through the steel support posts. They discarded signs, poles and fencing into the ocean.

On Wednesday, state parks workers were able to retrieve most of what was discarded and believe they can weld the fencing and gate back together, the news release said.

“Even so, it’s maddening, frustrating and disappointing that individuals who feel entitled to enter a closed area make it hard on everyone,” Cottrell said.

The closure at Little Beach followed a drum circle gathering last fall that was a so-called “superspreader” event for COVID-19, according to the news release.

Select state parks have been closed as a last option to help stop the spread of coronavirus in big gatherings, the department said.

Managers are exploring options for reopening Pu’u Ola’i, but Cottrell said the vandalism Wednesday would delay that.

“We understand many folks on Maui want Little Beach reopened, but in good conscience we cannot do so as long as some people continue to misbehave, break the law and endanger the health and safety of those around them,” Cottrell said. “These actions reduce our confidence that once we do reopen, we’ll see compliant and responsible behavior.”

Anyone who has information on the vandalism can report it anonymously by calling 643-DLNR (3567) or through the free DLNRTip app.

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