The Honolulu Department of Parks and Recreation will be removing one of the two fences it installed to block public access on a seawall pathway between Makalei Beach Park and Leahi Beach Park at the foot of Diamond Head, city officials told Civil Beat on Thursday.
The fence at the Makalei end of the walkway is slated to be removed sometime this week.
There has been a loud public outcry ever since the fences were installed blocking public passage with pathway users calling for the immediate removal of both fences.
But the city says for now the fence it installed at the other end of the walkway at Leahi Beach Park will remain in place while it searches for ways to make that end of the walkway safer.
It says possible remedies could be signs warning of unsafe conditions, repairs to the railing near Leahi Park or even keeping the current fence on the Leahi Park side in place.
The Leahi Park end of the seawall is where attorneys for Honolulu resident Shizuko Matsuda said she was seriously injured on May 28, 2012 when she fell through a gap in the railing down on to the rocks on the shore.
Matsuda sued the city and the state for negligence in 2016. The city settled in May 2018, paying $275,000 to Matsuda in damages.
Last week, City Managing Director Roy Amemiya Jr. said the city installed the two fences blocking the public from the seawall walkway on Christmas Eve to prevent similar lawsuits in the future.
Matsuda also sued the state for damages for her fall from the seawall but Circuit Judge Keith Hiraoka ruled in favor of the state. Matsuda’s attorney Kyle Smith is awaiting the outcome of an appeal his firm filed last year with the Intermediate Court of Appeals.
The Parks Department will try to figure out soon if and when the fence on the Leahi Park side can be taken down.
Diamond Head resident Alexi Drouin says he is relieved that at least one of the fences will be removed.
“One fence coming down is a good start but I will not rest until the other fence is removed,” he said.
Drouin says he used to walk his dog along the seawall every day. He says since the fences went up he has videotaped people dangerously climbing over the fences so they can fish and walk along the seawall.
Honolulu City Council member Tommy Waters, who represents the Diamond Head area, says he’s thankful for the removal of the fence and is hoping the fence on the Leahi side can be removed soon.
Waters says it cost the city $6,200 to erect the two fences, and that he is glad the fence removal on the Makalei side will be done in-house with city workers.
“Ocean access for the public is what makes people cherish living in Hawaii,” he said.
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Denby Fawcett is a longtime Hawaii television and newspaper journalist, who grew up in Honolulu. Her book, Secrets of Diamond Head: A History and Trail Guide is available on Amazon. Opinions are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect Civil Beat's views.