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Posted on May 4, 2021 in Latest Department News, Newsroom

HONOLULU – Entrance gates to the parking areas at the Keawa‘ula sections of Ka‘ena Point State Park on O‘ahu reopen this weekend, after being closed for more than a year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This was the result of state and county emergency orders/rules aimed at limiting group sizes and ensuring social distancing.

Prior to the pandemic, the Keawa’ula entrance gate was open all the time. Despite posted closed hours, the lack of available enforcement and the perceptions of acceptable uses, there was frequent unauthorized camping, large parties, fires, driving on the beach and other bad behaviors. These activities degrade valued and sensitive coastal resources and led to congestion in the park unit.

A single caretaker from the DLNR Division of State Parks is assigned to the Mākua and Keawa‘ula sections, creating a major challenge after large, unpermitted events during 3-day holiday weekends. Budget restrictions have frozen a second vacant park caretaker position indefinitely. A committed community partner organization continues to help with maintenance and keeping the park clean.

Division of State Parks Administrator Curt Cottrell said, “We were gravely concerned based on these behaviors that people would not honor COVID-19 gathering restrictions. Our law enforcement division (DOCARE) is spread thin.The park’s remote location made limiting patronage by keeping the gates closed, the most prudent action to combat the spread of coronavirus.”

Additionally, Cottrell explained, budget restrictions coupled with the significant loss of revenues from visitors required a  “careful examination of costs.” To manage gate opening and closing operations State Parks would have had to pay overtime or contract with a private security company. “Due to the park’s remote location, none of our staff was interested in overtime at the Keawa‘ula unit, and we were unwilling to return to the days of uncontrolled 24-hour access.”

Keawa‘ula Access Gate Details 

  • Weekend gate access from 6:00 a.m. Saturdays  and 9:00 a.m. on Sundays beginning  May 8th. Gates close at 7:00 p.m. both days. This is in effect until Sept. 30, 2021 when all O‘ahu security gate contracts come up for renewal.
  • Weekends and holidays contracted lifeguards are on site and with no parks staff available on Sundays, lifeguards from the City and County of Honolulu Ocean Safety Division will open the gate when they arrive at their lifeguard tower at approximately 9:00 a.m.
  • No overnight use is allowed. State Parks hopes and expects people will honor operating hours and leave on time. If not, vehicles will be locked in.
  • Compliant day use behavior will allow for the gate to continue to be opened on weekends. Vandalism and illegal nighttime activity will prompt a re-evaluation.
  • All current COVID protocols must be followed.

“We appreciate park usersʻ patience as we grapple with balancing public health with access and a goal to improve the protection of our coastal resources from abusive and inappropriate uses at Keawa’ula. There are members of the community on both sides of this issue so, only time and behavior will dictate our near-term  management solutions and actions,”  Cottrell concluded.  Ultimately, in time, the goal is to reopen Keawa‘ula daily for vehicle access.

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