Public access to beach thwarted
As an island businessman on the hospitality side of things I would like to share my opinion.
As a Big Island resident having lived in Hawaii since 1997 and a North Kohala resident for most of my years and now Holualoa, I can count on one hand the number of times I have been able to get a beach pass at the Mauna Kea Beach Hotel. They have set aside only 40 parking spaces for island beachgoers. They say if you don’t like that you can park for $45 but only if you valet. Then, they turn you around and say you can check back later. Check back later is like winning the lottery. However, if you go golf or eat lunch, parking is free but don’t tell them you will stay for the beach. You are warned if you do use hotel parking and pay the $45 you may not enter the hotel with beach gear. This is like Rosa Parks being told she must sit in the back of the bus after paying for her ride.
The hotel’s Internet page boasts a total parking capacity for all events for its grounds of 2,600 lumping together with the Hapuna Beach Prince Hotel. Just halving the number at 1,300 means they have only set aside 3 percent of their spaces for island residents and other visitors to access their public beach. Just three of any 100 towels on the sand might be a Hawaii resident unless a lucky visitor beat you. If it truly is 2,600 capacity then it’s only 1.5 percent available to the general public. This is a travesty and a discriminatory practice.
You would have thought after all these years the county would mandate access and ensure reasonable parking at hotels as our population and visitors have grown. They need to remember but for island residents our economy would not run. This seems to be a dirty little secret supported or ignored by your council and mayor. They seem to be indifferent to the public value of aloha that we all support.
Being a politician is a big job no doubt but hospitality is our bread and butter. No one or entity should be able to build bordering beachfront public lands without ensuring there is some reasonable way for the little guy or any guy for that matter to get to his public beaches. To restrict you by not creating reasonable and freely accessible methods of access, this hotel is relegating you to a lesser class of citizen. Forty spaces for an island population of 180,000 at one of the nicest white sand beaches on the island is wrong. Just compare the activity at the Hapuna Beach State Park parking area and it’s obvious the hotels are keeping you out the best way they can. We need politicians who stand up for what is right and reasonable. We need the hotels to be a neighbor and not a bully. I want to see change and so should you. There are easy fixes and parking can be found, don’t let anyone fool you with the impossible speech.
William Pink is a resident of Holualoa.
Viewpoint articles are the opinion of the writer and not necessarily the opinion of West Hawaii Today.