There are almost 300 park facilities on Oahu, and taking care of them is a never-ending responsibility.

A good many of them are popular beach parks — from Aina Haina Community Park in the east to Ala Moana Regional Park on the south shore, from Sunset Beach Neighborhood Park on the North Shore to Swanzy Beach Park on the Windward Side.

Their peaceful presence offers outdoor respite and recreation from the bustle that burdens much of the island, invaluable greenswards of escape for us all.

But the parks are also visited by lots of tourists, many of them brought by commercial tour bus enterprises that disgorge people with alarming regularity. Civil Beat has been reporting on the downsides to a tourism industry that is on the verge of maxing out and offering solutions to mitigate the damage.

Here’s a relatively easy step that can help make a difference, and soon:

Honolulu is considering updating its rules and regulations governing recreational stops — for sightseeing, spectating, picture-taking, beachcombing and swimming — by tour companies at many of our beach parks. In spite of the tremendous growth of tourism in the islands, the rules have not been amended since 1984.

The proposed rules call for toughening permit requirements for tour vehicles that stop at beach parks, capping the number of permits to five a month per park district (there are five islandwide — see map below), limiting recreational stops to 90 minutes, identifying beach parks where recreational stops are to be prohibited, setting out reasons for denial or revocation of a permit and setting up related penalties.

The city has proposed new rules regulating commercial activity at most beach parks. It includes Magic Island, which is part of Ala Moana Regional Park, seen here at sunset in March 2017. Cory Lum/Civil Beat/2017

The new rules — four times longer than the original and much more detailed — build on the existing rules and wisely keep many good provisions in place:

  • Cooking or preparation of food, buffet or serving lines and any catering service at a beach park during a recreational stop will still not be allowed.
  • Prepared lunches such as bentos, however, are allowed, though the entities issued permits will be responsible for trash pickup and removal.
  • Picnic sites and tables will not be allowed, nor advertising, soliciting or selling.
  • While the original rules applied daily “between the hours from sunrise to sunset,” the proposed rules are for Mondays through Fridays and holidays from 6:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. — no weekends.
  • Permits would only be issued to licensed motor carriers with insurance coverage and valid certificates of public convenience and necessity.
  • No more than three vehicles with permits for recreational stops may be parked in a beach park at the same time.
  • If necessary, a beach park may be closed for protection, restoration and safety.
  • The proposed rules also make clear the penalty for violating them: a fine up to $500, or imprisonment up to 30 days, or both.

These are good ideas, and we encourage residents to weigh in on the proposals. A public hearing is scheduled for Nov. 20 at the Mission Memorial Building downtown from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. If you can’t make the hearing, you can mail in written testimony no later than Nov. 27. Click here for more.

The reasons for the update stem from successful community efforts in Waimanalo in 2017 to curb commercial beach activity. In 2012 the Honolulu City Council banned such operations in Kailua and Kalama beach parks.

To that end, the proposed rules prohibit recreational stops at those beaches as well as Kaiona, Kaupo, Makapuu and Kalanianaole beach parks. Stops at Waimanalo Bay Beach Park are limited to weekends and holidays. And the new rules would not govern Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve, which has its own restrictions.

A map of Oahu city park districts. The number of permits to tour vehicles at beach parks would be limited to five a month per park district 

The Department of Parks and Recreation says it is eager to hear a variety of input on the proposed rules and regs. Once adopted, they could be in place within a matter of months.

Honolulu has spent millions of dollars to keep up Oahu parks in general. The operating budget for Parks and Recreation is $80 million and must cover nearly 5,000 acres of land. The facilities include dog parks, swimming pools and botanical gardens.

The proposed rules are a welcome and relatively inexpensive step toward proper stewardship.

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