It took a groundswell of community support to get Hoʻokipa Beach Park gates open more than an hour earlier, which supporters say curbs dangerous roadway conditions on the north shore.
The county beach park, one of Maui’s top surfing spots, is now open at 5:30 a.m. as of last Friday.
“After two years of emails and calls, a petition with nearly 1,000 signatures and the legal / financial support of Surfrider, the gates of Hoʻokipa are finally open!” said Pāʻia resident Justin Edwards, who often had to evade traffic in the dark with his young sons so they could surf. “Hundreds of locals and visitors alike had to endure dangerous conditions, crime and inconvenience for two years while this was sorted out.”
Since pandemic shutdowns, the county began opening Hoʻokipa at 7 a.m., forcing early-morning surfers, swimmers, fishers and others to park across the street and dodge fast-moving vehicles on busy Hāna Highway.
As a stopgap measure, Surfrider Foundation Maui Chapter recently signed a Right of Entry with the County of Maui that runs from Dec. 16, 2022 to March 31, 2023, to temporarily oversee the new opening times. The updated beach park hours are 5:30 a.m. to 7 p.m.
An earlier opening for Hoʻokipa gates may seem small for some, but it’s a big deal for beach access, Surfrider Foundation said.
“I understand that in the scheme of things, opening the gates at a beach park may seem manini for elected officials and the community at large,” Lauren Bickley, Surfrider Foundation’s Hawaiʻi regional manager, told Maui Now via email. “But accessing the beach is a public right. It is such a simple thing that we as the community should not have to be fighting for — it should just be a given that we can safely access these areas.”
Plus, Hoʻokipa was getting “very dangerous,” she added.
The nonprofit hailed the earlier times as a victory for beach access and credited the community for making waves.
“Making all that noise did lead to the county taking action,” Bickley said.
Edwards and fellow surfer Greg Mebel notified Surfrider Foundation Maui Chapter in September about the issues. They said the gates were always open early prior to the pandemic.
The two did a lot of “behind-the-scenes” work with county leaders and other officials, Bickley said.
Last month, the foundation got a call from the Parks department proposing the Right of Entry until the county can get rules changed and personnel and funding in place, Bickley said.
She said she appreciates that the county figured out a short-term solution. And while it’s not ideal that a nonprofit pays out of pocket to open public beach park gates, a core initiative for the organization is ensuring beach access.
“It’s why we’re here, and we were more than happy to step in to ensure that surfers, fishers and other shoreline users have safe access to the beach,” Bickley said.
The nonprofit is paying $3,000 to open the gates from Dec. 16 to March 31. Ho’okipa access donations to the Surfrider Foundation go directly toward ensuring early-morning access for surfers and shoreline users.
Local company Maui Traffic Control Systems, whose co-owner is Raina DeVault Au, mom of local pro and World Championship Tour surfer Imaikalani DeVault, has been contracted to do the work.
Ho’okipa is one of the most heavily used beach parks with consistent waves. Yet it is one of the only beach parks on Maui where people can’t safely park on the makai side of the highway if the gate is locked, Bickley said.
“Thanks to Surfrider Foundation and (the county Parks department), an unreasonably, unnecessarily, unsafe situation has been addressed,” Mebel said via email. “And, we have a success story before anyone was seriously injured. That’s a positive news story for the holidays.”