Hawaii & Alaska

HI - Bill would reserve half of all beach parking for residents

Overcrowding, COVID-19 disparity issues grow with return of tourism

As tourism numbers and frustrations with overcrowding continue to rise, the Maui County Council is considering measures that would reserve at least half of all public beach access parking for residents and tack on parking fees for visitors.

“For too long, residents have been asked to sacrifice their quality of life for the promise of economic benefit, but as balance was neglected, the return on investment diminished and our resources have been loved to death,” said Council Vice-Chairwoman Keani Rawlins-Fernandez, who introduced both proposals. “The double standards that we have seen during this pandemic must end and equity must be established for our residents.”

Because tourists cannot be stopped from coming to Maui, efforts to manage tourism, such as implementing parking fees for nonresidents, are an “absolute necessity,” Maui resident Jordan Hocker said during public testimony at a council meeting on Tuesday.

“Not only are you taking money in from tourism that’s eroding our resources and impacting the quality of life as residents, but then you have money for a budget or potentially to pay the people who need to enforce it,” she said. “I hope you have the good talks in balance because right now a lot of us are feeling very overrun by tourism.”

Frustration in recent months has centered on the perceived lack of enforcement by the state and county against tourists who don’t follow COVID-19 distancing, face masks and other public health emergency rules.

Meanwhile, Maui residents are still banned from gathering in large groups, school sports are shut down and graduations are forced to go virtual.

Shoreline activist Kai Nishiki testified Tuesday that allowing hundreds of tourists to crowd Wailea beaches with umbrellas in close proximity while ticketing a resident using a pop-up tent to shade keiki is just one example of inequities between tourists and residents during the pandemic.

“Maui County has been giving away access for free for far too long. Our residents are tired of being treated like second-class citizens,” she said. “Our community is at a boiling point right now. Take action now in incremental ways to help our residents.”

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Read also Appeals court overturns ruling that Duck beach access is public, OBXToday.com, April 7, 2021.

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