Diamond Head residents and beachgoers and fishermen are surprised and angry about two new fences that were recently erected between Makalei Beach Park and Leahi Beach Park at Diamond Head that block all public access along the seawall between the two parks.
Diamond Head resident Alexi Drouin walks his dog on this seawall four to six times a day.
“It connects the two parks at the heart of our Diamond Head neighborhood,” he says. “Since there is no signage on these fences, it’s causing a lot of confusion with most of the neighbors I know who live around the park. No one knows who is responsible.”
Residents are upset about fences that were installed at Makalei Beach Park and Leahi Beach Park at Diamond Head that block all public access along the seawall between the two parks.
Denby Fawcett/Civil Beat
City Managing Director Roy Amemiya Jr. said the city erected the fences to avoid getting sued in the future.
In 2018, the city settled a lawsuit from a woman who was seriously injured when she fell off the seawall near Leahi Beach Park and it doesn’t want that to happen again.
“We regret the inconvenience that it causes park goers that wish to traverse the shoreline area,” Amemiya said in a statement Thursday.
Drouin has lived at 3113 Diamond Head Road, next to Makalei Park, for five years. He says it is sad to watch people walk up to the fence and look baffled when they see there is no way to get around it.
“They give the fence a little shake and then turn around when they realize they can’t walk along the water,” he said.
Drouin took photos of the Allied Security Fence truck when its workers were installing the fences on Christmas Eve. He wonders why the city does not just fix the sections of the railing along the wall that are unsafe and caused the woman to fall instead of preventing all pedestrians from using the entire walkway.
This is the second time public access to the seawall has been blocked.
In January 2016, a homeowner or homeowners of luxury oceanfront homes fronting the seawall illegally erected gates at either end of the wall. The gates could be closed and locked at any time to limit foot traffic in front of their multi-million dollar residences.
At the time, the City Department of Planning and Permitting said it planned to cite the violators for building the gates without permits but then almost as quickly as the gates went up they mysteriously disappeared.
Workers reportedly installed the fence on the Makalei Beach Park side on Christmas Eve.
Courtesy: Alexi Drouin
Nobody then seemed to know who removed the gates. City officials told Honolulu Civil Beat that it wasn’t them. They never cited the lawbreakers.
What remains unanswered now is how the city can block public access along the ocean when it’s responsible for establishing beach transit corridors, according to HRS 115-5.
The state says it will not be taking any action on the now blocked seawall because it lacks jurisdiction over the walkway.
Department of Land and Natural Resources spokesman Dan Dennison says the walkway between Makalei and Leahi Beach Parks appears to be private property.
“The shoreline here follows the outer face of the walkway, and so the walkway is not in the Conservation District,” he said. “We’ve reviewed the deeds for the properties, and cannot find any easement granted to the State over the properties.”
In the meantime, there are many disappointed walkers and swimmers wondering how to get the fences removed to allow them once again to enjoy the walkway.
Honolulu resident James McGee likes to stroll along the seawall with his dog after he has finished his almost daily runs around Diamond Head.
He says he especially likes the concrete stairs on the middle of the seawall he can descend at low tide to take his dog for a swim.
“It’s been quite disappointing,” he says. “I always make a detour to walk on the seawall as it is refreshing and just beautiful and also a nice relaxing moment.”
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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.