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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Wednesday, April 4, 2007

Busy beach at Makaha has no restroom

By Will Hoover
Advertiser Staff Writer

Atta Pai, 38, showers at one of the few facilities near Makaha Beach. The comfort station is behind him. Makaha beachgoers must cross Farrington Highway, one of the most dangerous roads on O'ahu, to get to this comfort station.

DEBORAH BOOKER | The Honolulu Advertiser

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MAKAHA One of O'ahu's busiest and most popular surfing spots no longer has restroom facilities located on the beach, forcing park users to scurry across Farrington Highway one of the most dangerous roadways in the state to use a comfort station on the mountain side of the thoroughfare.

Since city workers removed the beach restroom and shower facilities on Makaha Beach Park several weeks ago, residents have become increasingly worried about public safety along the stretch of beach highway and call the situation an accident waiting to happen.

The world-famous wave destination, considered by many as the birthplace of big-wave surfing, hosts several surf meets annually that are attended by hundreds and even thousands.

"I'd rather cry wolf now than find out later that one of our kids has died trying to cross the highway," said Jimmy Keaulana, son of the legendary Richard "Buffalo" Keaulana, for whom one well-known surf meet is named.

Keaulana worries that the community faces further risk by requiring kids to "cross a busy highway just to rinse off after paddling practice."

Farrington Highway has one of the state's worst fatality records, with more than 90 people killed on the roadway since 1990.

The issue will be the topic of the next Parks and Recreation Committee meeting of the Wai'anae Neighborhood Board on April 12. Several residents have begun a petition drive to secure enough signatures to force official attention on the subject and its potential hazards.

And state Rep. Maile Shimabukuro, D-45th (Wai'anae, Makaha, Makua) yesterday called on the city to "provide adequate comfort and shower facilities to the vast amount of people who patronize Makaha surfing beach."

"The beach is the crown jewel of our community and very much a community center where people come together, whether for paddling, surfing, fishing or recreation," Shimabukuro said.

Lester Chang, city Parks and Recreation Department director, said crews removed the ocean-side comfort station about two months ago because it was a substandard, temporary facility that had been put in after Hurricane Iniki blew down the pervious bathhouse in 1992.

Later, the city built a modern comfort station across Farrington Highway with the understanding that the state eventually would realign the road around the backside of the new restroom facility. However, after the comfort station was built, the realignment plan never materialized, Chang said.

Meanwhile, the makeshift station on the beach had fallen into serious disrepair and would have cost more than $100,000 to fix, he said.

"When we have a big tournament, we will ask the promoter to provide extra portable toilets," Chang said. "We have that all over the place. We can't build comfort stations to handle the largest crowds.

"If there's still a concern for safety, then I think the community should be petitioning the state for a crosswalk light."

Chang said he did exactly that asking the state to install a crosswalk light on Farrington next to Makaha Beach Park for pedestrian use. "And they came back and said it was not necessary."

Reach Will Hoover at whoover@honoluluadvertiser.com.