OPEN LETTER TO THE PLAINTFFS IN THE LANIAKEA COURT BATTLE
For 15 long years, North Shore residents have predicted that someone would be killed at Laniakea due to the hazardous mix of parking and pedestrians crossing the highway. On August 1, a typically crowded Thursday afternoon, it nearly happened. A 10-year old boy was hit, thrown 10 to 15 feet, and was hospitalized with serious injuries. Residents expressed sorrow and outrage that the situation has come to this and fear that it is only a matter of time before an even worse tragedy happens at Laniakea.
Parking is in an unimproved dirt area mauka of the highway marked with
unenforced no parking signs. Dozens of people continuously scramble across the highway, clamber down a precipitous rock and sand shelf to the narrow beach or slippery rocks below to view the turtles. The lifeguards tell us there are first-aid injuries every day, and ambulance calls nearly every week when someone is down with a serious slip-and-fall. Tourists are unaware of these dangerous conditions as they flock to the site. This forces everyone to endure traffic crawls which miraculously open up once you pass the makeshift parking lot.
Area residents were afforded a respite in December of 2013 when the DOT placed barriers on the Mauka side of the highway. Traffic flowed. People resorted to parking on either end of the barriers, and without the direct view of the water, and a chance to walk and wait for an opening, were much less likely to dart into traffic. This reverted back to chaos when the court ordered the barriers removed in mid-2015 as a result of a lawsuit filed by The Save Laniakea Coalition and five individuals. The Surfrider Foundation called the DOT's efforts "misguided" and claimed their coalition was able to restore parking and beach access to the area.
Ironically, for the year and a half that the barriers were in place, beach access complaints were rare. Most surfers were unaffected by the barriers and motorists were grateful for the relief. While we can appreciate the effort to ensure public access to our parks and beaches, the situation at Laniakea is unique. First, the public park is a park in name only. No reasonable person would feel slighted for being denied vehicular access to the scrub brush and dirt of this undeveloped parcel of park land behind Kawailoa Ranch's fencing. Secondly, there was never any obstruction to gaining beach access unless you consider not finding a close parking space an obstruction. In short, the lawsuit did not really benefit the community and in fact barrier removal heightened the danger.
DOT issued a statement that the barriers would have prevented the recent
accident from happening. That must be difficult for the parents of the ten-year old boy to comprehend. The plaintiffs' attorney reacted defensively and claims to have offered a solution that was not readily accepted by the DOT. Considering the 15-year long struggle to implement any solution, it is unrealistic to expect that a mutually acceptable course of action will emerge from this interminable contested court case.
We know that the ultimate long-term solution can only happen with the
cooperation of the State Department of Transportation, the Department of Land and Natural Resources and the City's Department of Parks and Recreation. While we all advocate a long-term solution to this safety hazard, there is one course of action that can bring immediate relief to all of us.
This is our direct appeal to you, the plaintiffs in the Surfer vs. DOT lawsuit. Please, plaintiffs, drop it- you've ground interagency cooperation to a halt and it's not worth it. By doing so you will make an immediate solution possible, not one that will require at least two years of permitting and environmental studies. Reinstating the barriers would provide a layer of safety for pedestrians without a single serious negative consequence to the general public. It would also free thousands of area residents from miles of bumper to bumper traffic every day.
We believe that you, as residents and users of Laniakea Beach, are as concerned as we are about the welfare of the community and our visitors like the little boy from California who is lucky to be alive. Show compassion for your neighbors and our visitors and drop the law suit! Please do not minimize the danger of the current situation: you can easily improve it by dropping the suit.
The barriers would be temporary with life-saving benefits. As grassroot
representatives of our community, we feel no one really wins through litigation. We advocate a cooperative approach among all stakeholders for a workable long term solution. But let's do everything we can do NOW to make sure another injury or death does not occur at Laniakea.
Boyd Ready, Sunset Beach
Bob Justice, Kawailoa
SA Editorial: Laniakea traffic needs controls
Panos: “1,000 vehicles, 300 pedestrians.”
2019: Laniakea Turtle Beach Pedestrian Accident Sparks Blame Game
2014: Suit filed in Laniakea barrier battle
2013: After Years of Talk, Temporary Barriers to be Tested at Laniakea Beach