HI - Maui County Warns Lanai Resorts To Not Block Public Beach Access
The company said it closed the park because of flooding. A resident says the gate stayed shut after the water receded.
Maui County has issued a warning and told Lanai Resorts, the company owned by billionaire Larry Ellison, to stop blocking access to Hulopoe Beach Park or risk facing a fine of $100,000, plus an additional $10,000 for each day it goes unaddressed.
In Hawaii, it’s against the law for private landowners to block people from traveling through public access routes to shorelines. But in late July, Lanai Resorts shut its metal gate on the road leading to Hulopoe Beach Park, even though it’s required to keep it open 24/7, according to county documents. The only exceptions are during severe weather events or government-ordered emergency closures, like when beach parks were shut down during the pandemic.
“We have information that the park was closed during times when there were no severe weather emergencies or emergency proclamations that required the park to be closed,” the county’s planning department wrote in an Aug. 1 letter to the company.
Although the beach itself, like all other shorelines in Hawaii, is public, Lanai Resorts owns the gate and adjacent park. Ellison, co-founder of Oracle, owns 98% of the island, which he purchased in 2012 for a reported $300 million.
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A representative for Pulama Lanai, which is the corporate entity under Lanai Resorts that manages the privately owned land, said the company shut the gate to deal with flooding that submerged parts of the park in the aftermath of July’s historic south swell, which pummeled shorelines across the state. Vehicles were barred from entering, but pedestrians could still access the beach park by walking around the gate, which was reopened July 28, according to the company.
But Russell deJetley, the resident who filed a complaint against the company, said the gate remained shut, even after the flooding in the beach parking lot subsided. At the same time, large boulders lining the road next to the gate prevented anyone with a wheelchair from entering the park while the gate blocked the road.
“As a disabled Native Hawaiian veteran, I just felt like it was just a slap in the face,” said deJetley, who has a neurological condition that sometimes requires him to rely on a mobility scooter, walker or cane to get around.
Hulopoe Beach Park is nestled along Lanai’s southern coast, within walking distance of Manele Boat Harbor. It’s been a favorite spot for locals for decades, a place where generations of families have come to barbecue, camp and enjoy the water. In the 1980s, before the resort was built next door, the developer entered into an agreement with residents, promising that the beach park would always be kept for the public.