State and local officials are planning to dump boulders on trails favored by illegal off-roaders near Sandy’s beach to try to protect monk seals that frequent the shoreline.

The Hawaii Kai Neighborhood Board is working with the city to reduce off-roading at Wawamalu Beach. But exact dates for placing the boulders are still up in the air. 

The Hawaii Kai Neighborhood Board discussed the plan of using boulders provided by the state Department of Land and Natural Resources at last month’s meeting. The beach is part of the Kaiwi State Scenic Shoreline, which runs from the Makapu’u Lighthouse down to Wawamalu. 

Wawamalu Beach sits between Alan-Davis Beach — which is the state’s property — and Sandy Beach Park — which is the city’s property, so jurisdiction over Wawamalu is often hard to determine. 

“The city is pointing at the state, the state is pointing at the city, but we already have all these laws in place so why does no one want to just enforce them?” said board member Kim Hollandsworth. 

“I mean, for 10 years, we’ve just been trying to get somebody to stop people from driving on that beach — something that’s already illegal,” Hollandsworth said.

Honolulu parks spokesman Nathan Serota clarified that city jurisdiction often ends at “the upper reaches of the wash of the waves,” and state jurisdiction begins below that, so dealing with these areas often requires collaboration between the city and county. 

We are hoping to be able to take action on that proposal soon, but permitting requirements must be met,” Serota told Civil Beat in an email. 

Trucks driving over dunes at Wawamalu Beach have been eroding the natural features of the beach. Rachel Zalucki/Civil Beat/2020

Protecting Monk Seal Pups 

While the board’s conversations have been on-going, Hollandsworth has witnessed multiple instances of trucks driving very close to the monk seal pups that like to rest on the beach. 

Reese Liggett, a Hawaii Kai resident and member of the Sierra Club, has also witnessed close calls, which he says puts the pups at developmental risk. 

“When monk seals bear pups on a certain beach, the pups will return years later to the same beach to have their pups. And for many monk seals, that beach is most often Wawamalu,” Liggett said. “If they don’t have time to get accustomed to the beach and their instincts, it can get in the way of their ability to survive on their own.” 

This picture, provided by Hawaii Kai Neighborhood Board member Kim Hollandsworth, shows vehicles illegally parked on Wawamalu Beach. Rachel Zalucki/Civil Beat/2020

Hawaiian monk seals are protected under the Endangered Species Act.

June to August is monk seal pup season, and according to Charles Littnan, the director of the protected species division at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the main thing that will help seals during this time is people giving them their space — about 50 feet of it. 

“A seal needs a lot of space because a monk seal needs a lot of rest,” Littnan said. “It needs to rest for the next time it goes out to forage.” 

Adding to the Rock Garden

Once the boulders are in place, board member Elizabeth Reilly says officials will integrate them into the beach’s rock garden. 

“The boulders have been located and will be supplied by the DLNR, but we just have to wait for the green-light to move them,” Reilly said. 

The plan, as laid out by Liggett, will create a small space for cars to pull up to the beach, but prevent any vehicles from actually coming onto the sand or running over any indigenous plants. The boulders will start at Kalanianaole Highway and continue down to the sand dunes. 

Honolulu City Council member Tommy Waters requested money in the city’s fiscal year 2021 budget for planning, design, construction and placement of barriers at Wawamalu Beach. 

Waters said, in an email, that the city “has been working with stakeholders including the Sierra Club, Surfrider and Livable Hawaii Kai Hui to see if there is a way that the City can immediately expedite the placement of barriers to protect the monk seals.” 

A good reason not to give

We know not everyone can afford to pay for news right now, which is why we keep our journalism free for everyone to read, listen, watch and share. 

But that promise wouldn’t be possible without support from loyal readers like you.

Make a gift to Civil Beat today and help keep our journalism free for all readers. And if you’re able, consider a sustaining monthly gift to support our work all year-round.



About the Author