A temporary closure of the Kailua Pier is being floated as a means to address homelessness and illegal activities taking place at the public facility.
The Department of Land and Natural Resources Division of Boating and Ocean Recreation is seeking public comment on closing the pier from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. seven days a week beginning May 15. During those hours, no member of the public will be permitted access on the pier. Violators would be subject to warnings, citations and/or arrest for trespass on state land.
“The temporary closure was not precipitated by any specific event, but multiple and repeated violations by numerous people, which had the cumulative effect of degrading the quality and enjoyment of the pier by the community, visitors, adjacent landside businesses, and commercial use permit holders on the pier,” the Division of Boating and Ocean Recreation (DOBOR) said in an emailed response to questions.
The proposal follows increased violations of Hawaii Revised Statutes and Administrative Rules, including consumption of alcoholic beverages, smoking, storage of personal items, camping, sleeping and littering.
“On a daily basis, DOBOR Maintenance Staff, Harbor Agents, the District’s Facility Security Officer and District Manager have cleaned and inspected the pier. They continue to request and remind individuals about the laws and rules that govern the conduct of guests visiting the pier. DOBOR employees have attempted to connect individuals on the pier with outreach providers and other services they may be entitled to, i.e. veterans benefits, and will continue to do so,” DOBOR said, noting that while the efforts have had beneficial results more was needed to protect and preserve “this resource for the entire community.”
Enforcement will be handled by the Hawaii Police Department, DOCARE, and DOBOR staff.
“Users are encouraged to contact the District Office if they see violations of the law or rule,” DOBOR said.
Just how long the temporary night closure could last is undefined.
“‘Temporary’ means just that and is a common management practice in natural resources protection. There is no set date for when the closure will expire. Rather, the closure will remain until such time as the State determines the pier has been restored and can be sustained as the public amenity it has historically been for the community,” DOBOR said.
Kona Councilwoman Rebecca Villegas said she is open to the idea, calling the state’s move a “step in the right direction.”
“I think that it’s something that could be put into place and if it doesn’t work could be revoked — it’s not a do or die but it does have the potential to be effective because right now there’s an issue with a population of chronically homeless people who have essentially taken ownership of that bathroom area,” she said Friday. “We have to find a way to break up their being there 24/7 and closing the space for certain hours of the late, late evenings and early, early morning creates that space, and that gap and allows a timeframe for police to enforce.”
The state is particularly interested in comments from community members that fish on the pier during the proposed closure hours.
“If there are hours that don’t affect that gathering practice — which is a gathering practice and there are cultural rights associated with that — then those times frames should be taken into consideration when deciding which hours the pier would be closed,” Villegas said, urging users to submit input on the proposal. “We all know pleasing everyone is nigh impossible but we want everybody who will be affected to have a place at the table — that’s the core of democracy.”
To submit comments, email DLNR-DOBOR at email@example.com or call the Hawaii District Office at (808) 327-3685 by May 1.