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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Sunday, January 20, 2008

Rallying for access to beaches

By Lee Cataluna
Advertiser Columnist

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Unless you are very familiar with a beachfront neighborhood, you might not recognize a public right-of-way leading past imposing, security-laden houses.

In many places, there are no "public beach access" signs, or worse, the pathways have been gated, chained or otherwise illegally blocked by daunting measures. If you don't come knowing that you have the right to be there, you'd probably just give up rather than risk the hassles. The effect has turned many Hawai'i beaches into essentially private, exclusive enclaves.

The fight to ensure public access to Hawai'i's beaches isn't just won or lost once. It is an ongoing battle. When one landowner is made to comply with the law through public pressure or government intervention, it doesn't ensure that subsequent owners of the property will keep the fence down or the gate unlocked.

Indeed, there are 12 beachfront homes along Portlock Road sporting For Sale signs. That one house at the center of former city councilman Jon Yoshimura's showdown years ago is on the market for $5,480,000.

There are also issues of safety involved. If a publicaccess lane is blocked or hidden, emergency response vehicles and crews may not get to the beach in time.

At www.beachacesshawaii.org, there's a blog about the various efforts by a surprisingly large number of community groups to hold landowners to the letter of the law.

At www.surfrider.org, the O'ahu chapter of the National Surfrider Foundation includes a photo gallery documenting various access violations around O'ahu. Many of the photos showing gates, chains, locks, fences and signs were taken in Kailua. Other photos were taken around Wailupe and 'Aina Haina.

A statewide rally is planned for Groundhog Day (Saturday, Feb. 2) from 10 a.m. to noon at locations around O'ahu and the Neighbor Islands.

Scott Werny of the Surfrider Foundation explains that Groundhog Day provides two plays on words: "We keep fighting these battles at spots all over the state and most have the same outcome, like the movie ... also, those that gate off or otherwise don't allow access are ground hogs."

Many clubs and organizations statewide are involved in the planning of the rallies, including the Surfrider Foundation, Common Ground Hui, Windward Ahupua'a Action Alliance, Livable Hawaii Kai Hui, neighborhood boards and community associations.

Rally locations are being finalized, but include Kailua Beach, Ala Moana/Bowls, Hawai'i Kai, the North Shore and the state Capitol. Contact Werny at clearwater@hawaii.rr.com to get updated information.

Lee Cataluna's column runs Tuesdays, Fridays and Sundays. Reach her at 535-8172 or lcataluna@honoluluadvertiser.com.

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