City, state and federal law enforcement officers — along with local nonprofits — had a mess to deal with over the Fourth of July holiday weekend, ranging from drunks in Waikiki to campers in Makua Beach.

Officers rescued 300 people, stopped two boats that were overloaded and lacked proper safety equipment and helped with two alcohol-poisoning cases during the Waikiki flotilla on Monday.

The state Department of Land and Natural Resources’ Division of Conservation and Resources Enforcement estimated that 1,000 people were on boats, stand-up paddle boards, inflatable rafts, mattresses and “an infinite variety of floating toys.”

A U.S. Coast Guard officer addresses people aboard a catamaran that law enforcement noticed was riding low due to the dozens of people on its deck, Monday, during the Waikiki flotilla.
A U.S. Coast Guard officer addresses people aboard a commercial catamaran that law enforcement noticed was riding low due to the dozens of people on its deck Monday during the Waikiki flotilla. Courtesy: Hawaii DLNR

There were no reported injuries and only one person was cited — the operator of a boat full of people drinking. The boat lacked current registration, not to mention sufficient personal flotation devices. The passengers were given warnings and if they were underage, their parents were called to pick them up, the DLNR said in a news release.

Officers helped at least two young people on floating rings that deflated, taking them back to the beach on a Jet Ski since they were unable to swim the 500 to 1,000 yards.

Working with the U.S. Coast Guard, officers also ordered an overloaded catamaran back to its slip at Kewalo Basin after seeing it riding low in the water with at least 50 people on its deck drinking and partying. Enforcement officials plan to follow up since it was believed to be a commercial operator.

“This boat was an accident waiting to happen,” said Guy Chang, the enforcement division’s Oahu branch chief. “You mix alcohol with boating, sun exposure and the lack of safe operations and equipment, and it’s probably only a matter of time before someone would have gotten hurt.”

Law enforcement estimated 1,000 people took part in the July 4 flotilla off the coast of Waikiki, and had to help rescue 300.
Law enforcement estimated 1,000 people took part in the Fourth of July flotilla off the coast of Waikiki, and officers had to help rescue 300. Courtesy: DLNR

Volunteers from Sustainable Coastlines Hawaii were operating off a boat, picking up trash from the ocean and trying to convince people to clean up after themselves, according to DLNR.

Sustainable Coastlines said on its Facebook page that people did a better job this year than in years past in keeping their trash on board their boats, but that there’s a lot of work to do.

‘Travesty’ At Makua Beach

Over on the northwest side of Oahu, campers left piles of rubbish and human waste throughout the vegetation in the Makua section of Kaena Point State Park Reserve.

DLNR Division of State Parks Administrator Curt Cottrell described the scene as “disgusting, irresponsible, unbelievable” and a “travesty.”

The department is considering a “rest period” after the busy summer season to determine future management options, DLNR said in a release Tuesday. The options include banning vehicles but allowing foot traffic.

Curt Cottrell, who heads the State Parks Division, as
Curt Cottrell, who heads the State Parks Division, says the state may have to look at management options to curb people from trashing Makua Beach. Courtesy: Hawaii DLNR

“Imagine showing up with your family and friends to use the beach for the day at one of the stunning locations on Oahu, and you spend the first few hours cleaning up the horrible mess the people before you left,” Cottrell said in the release. “This kind of behavior shows tremendous disrespect for the aina and other people and we have to take steps to heal the area and change the way people act.”

He blamed social media for increasing the area’s popularity and noted how in one place someone had even put a porcelain toilet in the trees.

“The wilderness ethic is decaying and human activity is seriously damaging both natural and cultural resources,” Cottrell said. “This is a public health issue now and until we conduct further tests we can’t say whether it’s even safe for people to be in the area, because the soils may be contaminated or infected.”

Micah Doane, of Protectors of Paradise, shows a bucket of nails picked up off the beach from people burning pallets of wood. Courtesy: Hawaii DLNR

Micah Doane, of the volunteer group Protectors of Paradise, said in the release that he’s fighting a losing battle in trying to keep the area clean.

“I grew up here, my ancestral lineage is here and I have a deep kuleana for this place,” he said. “It’s really hard to imagine what’s going through people’s minds to think that others, including the state, are responsible for removing their trash and rubbish. What happened to personal responsibility? We can’t continue on the current path, because we’re quickly destroying one of the island’s real treasures.”

Meanwhile, on Maui, the enforcement division issued 46 citations Sunday for illegal dirt-bike racing in the Kula Forest Reserve on the slopes of Haleakala.

“Hikers report having to jump off the trail due to a motorcyclist operating illegally,” Acting Enforcement Chief Jason Redulla said in a release Tuesday. “Areas of cultural significance are being damaged and natural resources are being negatively impacted.”

Lack of state resources remains a challenge.

The State Parks Division has one maintenance worker who takes care of Makua and Keawaula and the enforcement division is similarly understaffed. DLNR noted that by comparison, Honolulu’s Department of Parks and Recreation has 135 people to provide maintenance services in county beach parks and campgrounds from Pearlridge to Makaha.

About the Author