Guarantees aren't meaning much in the face of the barriers that regular members of the public are facing when they try to get down to the water.
So on Sunday members of more than 20 organizations hit the streets to protest barriers to beach access. KHON on Oahu's north shore, dozens of people stood along Kamehameha highway in front of Turtle Bay Resort.
"What we've done is teamed up with beach access Hawaii to sort of call attention to the lack of public right away to the beach," says Timothy Vandeveer, Defend Oahu Coalition.
Vandeveer says on Oahu, there are only 86 public rights of way for more than 200 miles of beach and shoreline.
"We're here to show legislators we care about beach access. And also show the owners of the hotel that we'd like more access to the beach," says Vandeveer.
"The resort has five miles of coastline here and the only access is the main one at the front of the hotel," says Mark Cunningham, Defend Oahu Coalition.
"We want to remind people that beach access is pretty important to a lot of us out here, it's our way to enjoy the natural resources we have as well as pass on those legacies to our next generation," says Margaret Primacio, Defend Oahu Coalition.
Rallies were also held this morning on Maui, Kauai, Molokai, and the Big Island.
So called public beaches everywhere are more and more controlled either by rich homeowners or big hotel and resort corporations leaving working stiffs with maybe, if they're lucky, a few small stretches of shore here and there.
Scott Werny, chairperson of the Surfrider Foundation Oahu Chapter, added: "Not only that, but some of these private landowners are acting like ground hogs when they deny the public access to our own beaches." According to Werny, many shoreline paths were created with the intent to provide beach access and are tax assessed at only $100 -- yet they remain closed to the public.
Funny how that is.
"State law, affirmed by the Hawaii Supreme Court, clearly states the right of Hawaii's people to go to the coast," said Miwa Tamanaha of KAHEA, the Hawaiian-Environmental Alliance. Speaking of the protest, she added, "This is an islands-wide issue, and this day is an opportunity for individuals in Hawaii to affirm to their elected representatives their desire to access our public shorelines."
And sometimes where there is access the cost of parking has become prohibitive for those who aren't rolling in the bucks.
"The people that can't afford to park in this area will be forced out and have to park somewhere else," Melissa Ling-Ing told a Land Board meeting.
The Honolulu Star Bulleting weighed in on the issue:
"Our oceans and beaches are precious resources that are at the root of why most of us live here. These are public areas, for all to enjoy. Families, fishermen, surfers, paddlers and countless others rely on access to our shorelines for recreational needs. Yet more and more we see areas all over our islands where beach access paths are being gated or fenced; we see ocean-side parking areas being reduced and fees being imposed; and we see land development that threatens to diminish or block access. Simply stated, it is becoming harder to reach the beach."
Of course, the problem doesn't exist in Hawaii alone. Go to the other end of the country, for example, to the late great state of New Jersey.
All along the New Jersey coastline (which includes communities beside the Delaware River, the Hudson River, Raritan and Sandy Hook bays, and the Atlantic Ocean) there are barriers to public beach access. In Jersey, a majority of people are being restricted from enjoying local beaches due to a small, parsimonious group of residents who exercise their right to private property by restricting people from the coast with fences, gates, and mean signs.
In California, the state has negotiated easements allowing public access to the beach, but in many parts of the city access remains blocked by fences and locked gates put up by rich and very rich homeowners.
''I can't think of any place that's worse than Malibu, but there are places that are just as bad,'' said Sara Wan, chairwoman of the California Coastal Commission, the agency charged with protecting the public's access to the coast.
Among the property owners living by such easements are David Geffen and Frank Mancuso, a former MGM chairman.
Mr. Mancuso and a neighbor, Donahue Wildman, have volunteered to pay for a program to bus youths to other beaches rather than open the access between their properties.
Isn't that nice?
And let's take one last stop in Florida where it has been more than 18 months since private developers and government officials illegally closed public access to one of the nicest beaches in Dade County - shutting out tourists, surfers, fishermen and others who prize this unique area.
The Surfrider Foundation there says:
..."since 1970, the Village of Bal Harbour has leased state-owned land beneath the Haulover Bridge from the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) for $1 per year. According to the terms of the lease, the Village was to maintain a parking lot and a beach access point so that the public could use the beach. In 2003, the Village ILLEGALLY subleased this land to private condominium developer WCI, which later shut off public access to the beach and closed the parking lot (using it to store construction materials). The Village pocketed $300,000 from the developer.
"Since the Surfrider Foundation uncovered these shady dealings in June 2006, Bal Harbour Village has consistently refused to return beach access and parking to the general public. (An "alternate" access point - offered only recently and grudgingly by the Village - has no parking and requires fishermen & surfers to carry equipment through a dangerous construction site to reach the beach.) Beachgoers are fed up and demand that Bal Harbour surrender their ill-gotten gains to FDOT and be denied oversight authority of the area."
By the way, the rich do not, despite what they might think, own the ocean.
The Surf Rider Foundation issued a beach manifesto in which they called for the following:
Beach access would be free and uninterrupted. You could get to the beach to check the surf or stick your toes in the sand at least every half-mile in urban areas. There would be adequate parking, restrooms, and other amenities. Money would be budgeted for the acquisition of coastal open space.
You could surf or swim after it rains without the fear of getting sick, or at least know where it's safe because a notice would be posted if the water quality were bad. You would know the locations of storm drains and sewer outfalls.
Sand would flow freely to form surf breaks and beaches, and not be captured by dams, blocked by groins, or walled up behind seawalls and riprap. People would live far enough away from the shoreline that beach erosion would not be a problem. Beaches would be where and what they were naturally meant to be. As a result, we would not need to rely on beach fill and we would not need shoreline structures. It would be widely appreciated that beach ecology is as important as the ecology of the oceans.
Sandy beaches would be recognized as diverse and productive systems, which serve as a critical link between marine and terrestrial environments.
There would be no net loss of surfing areas, and all coastal recreation opportunities would be protected.
Advances in technology would be used to make information readily available to the public, government officials, and scientists alike. Information would be presented in a way that is easily understood. All of us, not just a select few, would be able to participate in the decision-making process regarding our precious coastal resources.
Beach access sites would be inventoried, surf zone water quality monitored, and beach erosion measured. Keeping track of these things would help to ensure that our Mother Ocean's bounty is preserved for future generations.
Where are the Beach Boys when you need them?
The following is from Kauai Garden Island (Hawaii).
Beach access issues draw statewide crowds
Protesters around the state hit the beach and streets Saturday to raise awareness about the loss of beach and shoreline access throughout the state.
“We have more than 20 groups involved, spread across almost all the islands that are protesting some local issue with beach or shoreline access,” said Scott Werny, co-chair of the Surfrider Foundation O‘ahu Chapter and one of the event organizers. “There is a different story at each location, but whether it’s lack of adequate parking, pay parking, gated paths, warning signs, or threatening development, it all boils down to inadequate shoreline access.”
Werny points out that shoreline and beach access is still threatened, even though Hawai‘i law states access is a guaranteed right.
On Kaua‘i, approximately 20 members of the Surfrider Foundation Kaua‘i Chapter were on hand at Princeville Hotel to protest the limited number of public parking spaces available for access to Hideaways Beach.
“The Surfrider’s mission is to protect and respect the beach,” said Diana LaBedz of Waimea. “If everyone did, we would be enjoying the beach, not protesting.”
Princeville Hotel did not offer comment by press time.
“Part of the mission of the Surfrider Foundation is to ensure access to our public beaches,” said Gordon LaBedz, chair of the Kaua‘i chapter. “In Hawai‘i, it is the law. We are simply asking homeowners, hotels and the county to obey and enforce the law.”
In 1995, the Hawai‘i Supreme Court decided that all beaches in Hawai‘i were open to the public and cannot be privately owned. According to Hawai‘i Revised Statutes, “the purpose of this chapter is to guarantee the right of public access to sea, shorelines, and inland recreational areas, and transit along the shorelines, and to provide for the acquisition of land for the purchase and maintenance of public rights-of-way and public transit corridors.”
“We really hope that this event will raise awareness of our current state of beach access in Hawai‘i and hope that our city and state officials can work together and pass legislation to address these issues and solve this problem once and for all,” Werny said. “There are some good bills now pending and we hope they will be given a fair review and made into good law that will force our officials to secure and maintain adequate routes to reach the beach.”
Kaua‘i now has the strongest coastal protection law in the state after the County Council passed a science-based shoreline setback ordinance in December, late last year.
The ordinance mandates a 40-foot minimum setback plus 70 times the annual coastal erosion rate as suggested in the Hawai‘i Coastal Hazard Mitigation Guidebook.