Saturday, July 02, 2022 |
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Fees for beaches a ‘real slap in the face’
We have been coming to the Big Island for the last 20 years, and have been property owners since 2013. We spend about four to five months of the year here. We have always encouraged friends and visitors to come, highlighting the public accessibility of the beautiful beaches and shoreline for recreation, whale watching, and just plain chilling. We have borne our share of the escalating costs of coming to the Big Island (electric, gasoline, food, property taxes, etc. etc. etc.), but realized that is the price we must pay to be here. As you know, visitors pay more tax revenues to the state than what it costs the state to provide services back to them. In 2019, tourism generated an estimated $2.07 billion in tax revenues, which was 25% of total state tax collections; while representing only 15% of the population.
Imagine our shock, then, when we tried to get into Kauna’oa Beach (Mauna Kea Resort) and was told, that in addition to the very limited visitor parking, there was now a $20 dollar vehicle tax for nonresidents. In additio0n to a similar entrance fee at Hapuna Beach, there is the added insult of a $5 dollar per person charge. Beach 69 in Puako is also exorbitant. We understand that other “public access” beaches may soon follow. The downside of this approach is to promote longer stays at the beach and in areas with limited parking such as Kauna’oa, reduces accessibility to residents and nonresidents alike. Beaches can no longer be considered “public access” when you have to “pay to play.”
We can no longer in good conscious encourage anyone to visit Hawaii. When you add up the costs of airfare, lodging, food, car rental, and parking with the added insult of paying for “public access” beaches, it becomes prohibitive and a real slap in the face to those who have already invested so much to be here. Unlike short-stay visitors, property owners and longer-stay renters contribute more heavily to Hawaii coffers. By charging such exorbitant fees, recreational choices for these individuals are seriously eroded, as going for regular short swims or sunset views become economically unfeasible.
Has there been any consideration to allow property owners, long-term renters, retirees, the disabled, and/or veterans the same benefits as residents in beach accessibility? Or limiting the fees to those who plan to stay longer than an hour? Or charging only for peak hours, allowing free dusk access for sunset viewing? Otherwise, as word gets out, Hawaii will need to start looking elsewhere for tax revenue, as people will certainly be looking for a better value in a more welcoming location.
One small victory
The Department of Labor has released the data on successes and failures of COVID economic policies, state by state, and not surprisingly Hawaii is at the literal bottom. Recently, however, we can celebrate at least a small victory. March 17, for the first time in about two years, the bright yellow banner advertisement on the top of the West Hawaii Today listing numbers for COVID new cases and deaths on the Big Island is gone! Could it be that if you’ve been watching the count, there have been no new cases or deaths in the last several days? It’s hard to keep the fear going if the numbers, skewed though they are, show no new cases or deaths. There’s light at the end of this dark, dark tunnel we’ve lived in for the last two years. Now it’s time to allow some of that transfer of wealth from main street to the chosen online and big-box stores that were allowed to stay open, to flow back to our small businesses and “We The People.”
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