Until a couple of months ago, the almost half-mile paved bike path behind Kapahulu Avenue was a haven for homeless people.

Some were well-behaved, community members said, but others would litter, take drugs, make cat-calls at passersby and use the nearby bushes to relieve themselves.

Some community members felt unsafe, said Colin Nishida, owner of the Side Street Inn on Kapahulu near Date Street. He estimated 10-12 people were living directly behind his restaurant, with more tents scattered along the path toward the Kanaina Avenue intersection.

They inhabited the area for about a year and also tapped into the restaurant’s electricity through outlets outside the building, Nishida said.

Island Triathlon and Bike adopted the bike path about five years ago.
The bike path stretches for nearly a half-mile behind Kapahulu Avenue. Noelle Fujii/Civil Beat

They left this summer when city workers put up temporary orange fencing on both sides of the bike path, along with signs informing visitors that the Department of Parks and Recreation planned maintenance work on the surrounding grass and irrigation system.

To prevent the return of overnight visitors, the city is considering turning the path and the nearby grass into a park.

“That way … once that agreement is in place, we can start to enforce park rules, basically being the camping and drinking and stuff like that,” said Honolulu police Maj. Gordon Shiraishi at a recent Waikiki Neighborhood Board meeting. “This is an effort to help everyone and us to keep that place clear, clean and free up a lot of things that have been happening.”

The path stretches from the intersection of Kapahulu Avenue and Date Street down to the entrance to the Waikiki-Kapahulu Public Library.

‘It’s A Lot Better Than We Had’

The idea is to close the path from midnight to 5 a.m., Shiraishi said. However, because residents and workers in Waikiki tend to use the area at night, there would be a period where officers would inform them of the new rules, rather than issue citations.

Closure and park rules signs would also be posted.

The departments of Enterprise Services, Transportation Services, Facilities Maintenance, Parks and Recreation and the Board of Water Supply currently oversee the bike path.

To transfer authority completely over to the parks department, a document between the departments that outlines who is responsible for what would be needed, said Jeanne Ishikawa, deputy director of the parks department.

If the parks department receives sole jurisdiction of the path, it will be able to enforce rules, like no camping or drinking.
If the parks department was granted sole jurisdiction of the path, it would be able to enforce rules like no camping or drinking. Noelle Fujii/Civil Beat

The Diamond Head/Kapahulu/St. Louis Heights Neighborhood Board on Oct. 13 passed a motion of support of the change, and chairman George West called the move a step in the right direction.

“It’s a lot better than we had, folks, so let’s go there and refine it as we go along,” he said at the meeting.

The idea also received support from Waikiki Neighborhood Board Chairman Bob Finley, although the board decided to hold off on passing a motion of support at its October meeting.

The McCully/Moiliili Neighborhood Board received an informal presentation on the topic at its meeting earlier this month, but has yet to discuss and vote on the topic because it was not listed on the agenda, said Matthew Gonser, the board’s vice chairman.

How Bad Was It?

James Smith, owner of Island Triathlon and Bike at the corner of Kapahulu and Campbell avenues, said the total number of homeless people living along the bike path peaked last June at 30-40.

Kimo Carvalho, director of media relations for the Institute for Human Services, said he thinks they chose to stay in that area because of nearby resources. He estimated there were about three tents directly behind Side Street Inn, possibly with three families, and the adults were using drugs.

Trash has also long been a concern in the area. Smith’s business adopted the bike path about five years ago and used to clean it every month with four to eight volunteers.

About a year and a half to two years ago, he said, the amount of garbage on the path became too much for them to clean.

After the homeless people moved in, Smith said he and his volunteers would find needles, in addition to clothes, cans and wrappers littered on the ground. The volunteers stopped the cleanups in March or April, Smith said.

Tate Brown, 48, has used the bike path for almost 20 years and currently uses it about three times a week. He said homeless people living along the path didn’t cause much trouble. In fact, as the campsite grew larger, he noticed that some of its residents would sweep the path and trim the weeds.

Deborah Lee has lived by the Ala Wai Canal for nine years and uses the bike path daily. She said the homeless people living there were sometimes polite, greeting people as they walked by, and she never felt unsafe.

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