The Honolulu Department of Parks and Recreation has removed the controversial fence it erected at Leahi Beach Park.
The fence blocked public access on a popular seawall pathway between Makalei Beach Park and Leahi Beach Park at the foot of Diamond Head.
In a terse two-sentence statement Monday, Parks Director Michelle Nekota said, “The fence at the makai boundary of Leahi Beach Park has been removed. Cautionary signs will be posted.”
The parks department did not immediately respond to questions about what it has done to make the walkway safer, when the signs will be installed and what the signs will say.
The fence blocking public access on the seawall was one of two that the parks department hired a contractor to install on Christmas Eve. The second fence was erected on the other entrance to the walkway at Makalei Beach Park.
Council member Tommy Waters said the city paid $6,200 to have the two fences installed.
When the public realized its ocean access was blocked, there was an angry outcry from walkers who had enjoyed the path for decades and from people who liked to catch fish from the walkway.
City Managing Director Roy Amemiya Jr. explained on Jan. 2 that the city put up the two fences to avoid lawsuits in the future.
In 2018, the city paid $275,000 to settle a claim from Shizuko Matsuda, an elderly woman who fell through a gap at the end of the railing on the Leahi Park side of the walkway in 2012.
The unsafe gap in the railing through which Matsuda fell on the Leahi Beach side of the walkway is still there.
On Monday, nearby residents were glad the fence was coming down.
“I am happy about the removal of the fence at the Leahi side of the walkway,” said Diamond Head resident Alexi Drouin. “When the walkway was closed, I realized how much I treasure it and how much walking along it has become a part of my daily routine.”
Drouin has lived for five years in a home overlooking Makalei Park, where one side of the seawall pathway begins. He finds it strange that the city has done nothing to close the gap in the railing where Matsuda fell.
Diamond Head Neighborhood Board member Linda Wong also said she was glad the Leahi fence was removed.
“I think this is a reasonable and safe decision and alternative,” Wong said, adding that what the city is doing is similar to how access is treated on other Diamond Head seawalls like nearby Tonggs. “Now all have free access to the beach via the seawalls.”
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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.