BY THELMA DREYER – To demonstrate the severe shortage of camping permits on the Wai`anae Coast, two fathers from Wai’anae – Morris and Thurston Kamealoha- will “camp” on Tuesday, November 9, at 8pm at Kapolei Satellite City Hall and present the City with a petition signed by 400 Leeward residents to urge the Department of Parks and Recreation to increase the number of camping permits issued on the Wai’anae Coast.
They will be joined by scores of others vying for camping permits for the Thanksgiving weekend.
“You literally have to camp at the Satellite City Hall if you want to camp,” Rep. Maile Shimabukuro (D-45th) says. “This has been going on for years, and now it’s even harder for Wai`anae Coast residents because they have to travel to Kapolei rather than go to the Wai`anae Satellite City Hall to get camping permits for our own beaches on the Wai`anae Coast.”
“Camping is how we would like to spend our quality family time,” wrote the two brothers, Morris and Thurston Kamealoha, in a letter to Rep. Maile Shimabukuro asking for her support of the petition. “Quality family time is what keeps the love in the family strong.”
Currently, there are only 12 campsites (weekends only) at Maili Beach Park, 12 campsites at Nanakuli Beach Park, and 6 campsites (summer only) at Lualualei Beach.
While the state does not allow camping at its parks on the Wai`anae Coast due to the public’s complaints about the homeless, it does issue free one-year overnight access permits at Keawaula Bay, aka “Yokohama,” which allow up to 10 people to fish, star-gaze, etc. overnight. Under the state’s Keawaula permit, groups are allowed to use “EZ corner”-type tents with up to 2 sides, but may not use pop-up or 3-4-sided tents, sleeping bags, or cots.
“There is a draft permit for recreational wilderness camping at Makua Beach which the state is considering,” said Wai`anae harbormaster William Aila, Jr. Aila added that people can request the one-year Keawaula access permits at any time, either by contacting DLNR’s State Parks division or him, at 697-7095.
“We truly believe that if there are more camping sites, there would be more permits to give out and a better chance at getting one,” the brothers added in their letter to Shimabukuro. “There are so many beautiful pristine beaches, but law forbids overnight camping on over 75 percent of our Wai’anae Coast beaches.”
Standing in long lines for a camping permit only to be denied a spot because all spots fill up is another grievance brought up by the petition.
On behalf of her constituents, Rep. Maile Shimabukuro contacted the Department of Parks and Recreation (DPR) and discovered, through an official statement from Acting Director Lester K.C. Chang, that the city is working on an online permitting process, considering fee charges for camping permits, and modifying city camping rules. The City and Council would also have to approve fee charges for the camping permits.
“DPR is projecting to implement the (online permitting) system in the Fall of 2011,” Chang wrote in a letter to Rep. Shimabukuro. “Several milestones need to be cleared for that to occur. A City Ordinance change must pass the City Council to allow for the reservation system to be implemented with the fees. An online system needs to be selected and staff trained. Once the system is online, this should eliminate the long lines present campers are experiencing.”
However, before the city can even consider increasing the amount of camping sites, the new online system would need to be implemented. There are no current plans to increase the amount of camp sites anywhere on the island. “Once the online system has been implemented, the issue will be revisited,” Chang wrote in the letter to Shimabukuro.
“This petition represents the community taking action on something that is important to their families,” Rep. Shimabukuro said. “I’m encouraged that the city is already working on an online permitting system. I hope that they will seriously consider the suggestion of opening up more camp sites for our Ohana.”