Hawaii Island residents have access to Kawa again.
The county in late October posted police officers at the beach’s access road to prevent people from reaching the Ka‘u bay after county officials evicted several people, including Abel Lui. Karen Teshima, an executive assistant to Mayor Billy Kenoi, said Monday the county began allowing access again Dec. 6.
The county had no incidents in which anyone tried to access the beach during the closure.
“We were very lucky,” Teshima said.
“People were understanding.”
The beach is open from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m., with some restrictions, Teshima added.
Kenoi said the county recognized the need to be stewards of the property and protect the archaeological sites found there.
“We also recognize the need for those who use the area for fishing and surfing,” he said, adding the county is asking people who visit the bay to “be mindful and responsible of the ongoing archaeological inventory survey. Our goal is to provide access for everyone.”
County officials prevailed, after a protracted legal dispute over their purchase of the land, and Lui’s claims that his family owned the land.
A court order gave the county the authority to evict Lui.
Teshima said the county is awaiting the completion of an archaeological inventory survey of the property, which should be complete in late January, with a report prepared in February.
Also in January, the county will begin meeting with lineal descendants of the land and community stakeholders to work out a stewardship plan for the beach.
She also addressed reports circulating the community that the county intended to begin construction at the beach. That’s not true, she said.
Wayne Kawachi, president of O Ka‘u Kakou, said he saw people headed to the beach over the weekend. The community seems to be happy the property is open again, he said.
“They were kind of disappointed it was closed too long,” Kawachi said.
People seemed to be more comfortable using the beach now that the long-term campers, which included Lui and his supporters, are gone, Kawachi said.
Pele Hanoa said opening the beach to the community is a good move on the county’s part.
“That would be good for the public to have access,” Hanoa said.