Hawai‘i Officials Clarify Pohoiki Access Policy 

September 19, 2018, 8:30 AM HST (Updated September 19, 2018, 8:41 AM)
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University of Hawai‘i archive map of Puna District.

Since the reopening of MacKenzie State Recreational Area on Sept. 8, 2018, many hikers are venturing to Pohoiki, also known as Isaac Hale Beach Park, an oceanfront park, boat launch and surf location on Pohoiki Bay along the Puna shoreline.

Most trek from from MacKenzie SRA in Lower Puna.

MacKenzie State Recreational Area was closed back in May when lava entered the ocean just North of the recreational area.

The area is accessible only by Highway 137, known to locals as Red Road, which is barricaded just past the MacKenzie SRA entrance.

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However, Pohoiki/Isaac Hale Beach Park, a Hawai‘i County park, remains closed for now. It has been isolated on both sides by lava flows.

Department of Land and Natural Resources Senior Communications Manager Dan Dennison clarified
that the Pohoiki Small Boat Ramp adjacent to Isaac Hale Beach Park is under the jurisdiction of the DLNR Division of Boating and Ocean Recreation (DOBOR) and was never officially closed.

However, at this time, the boat ramp is inaccessible due to the formation of a sand bar.

Although Pohoiki remains closed, many ventured out for the 90-minute hike each way from MacKenzie State Recreational Area to the oceanfront park over a treacherous, cooling ʻaʻā flow. Crystal Richard Sept. 8, 2018. PC: Crystal Richard

“Currently, the ramp is not accessible from the ocean due to a new black sand beach that has ringed the ramp,” explained Dennison. “DOBOR leadership will be taking a close look at Pohoiki later this week to try and determine whether it can be made operational again and to identify potential locations along the coast should the ramp need to be relocated.”

Hawai‘i Island residents and visitors flocked to the Puna coast to see the new black sand beaches that
formed when lava flowed into the ocean and washed ashore at MacKenzie State Recreational Area on
Sept. 8, 2018. PC: Crystal Richard

At Mackenzie, there is new black sand deposited along the shoreline.

The new sand has been washing ashore after lava entered the ocean up the coast.


New black sand beaches at MacKenzie State Recreational Area along the Puna Coast on Sept. 8, 2018. PC: Crystal Richard

According to United States Geological Survey, lava stopped entering the ocean on Aug. 29.

The flow field between MacKenzie SRA and Pohoiki has been inactive since for a couple months.

“The 50-meter buffer zone implemented by Hawai‘i County Civil Defense is still in effect and continues to preclude travel onto the lava field and across state forest reserve and unencumbered lands,” stated
Dennison.

He said due to manpower limitations, DOCARE is no longer patrolling Lower Puna on a daily
basis.

Sand washed ashore at MacKenzie, forming new black sand beaches, Sept. 8, 2018. PC:
Crystal Richard

“Until recently, at the county’s request, four officers were assigned daily to assist in the Emergency
Operation Center and in the field for the Lower East Rift Zone eruption,” explained Dennison. “DOCARE will respond to issues as necessary.

 

Ti leaf offering left along the coast near the new black sand beach at MacKenzie SRA in Puna on Sept. 8, 2018. PC: Crystal Richard

The state Department of Land and Natural Resources encourages anyone making the trip to be completely self-sufficient and well prepared.

Two residents who took the hike said it was long and rough.

“It took us an hour-and-a-half each way. I would never do it again,” said one of the hikers, who preferred to remain anonymous.

Ocean entries were small and scattered on the morning of Aug. 13, 2018, but lava had made no significant advance toward Isaac Hale Beach Park. The Pohoiki Small Boat Ramp remains intact, but access from it to the open bay has been cut off by a sand bar that extends from the jetty to the shore. As molten lava streams into the ocean, it shatters into small glassy fragments, forming black sand that’s transported along the coast by longshore currents. Click to enlarge. PC: USGS

He said the ‘a‘a flow was difficult to traverse and strongly urged others heading out to have a lot of
water, sun protection and proper footwear.

With much of Puna’s ocean access covered in lava, residents and visitors alike are anxious for the county to bulldoze a road that would create access to the beloved beach park.

During a Puna community meeting, Hawai‘i County Civil Defense Administrator Talmadge Magno said the county is planning to create access to Pohoiki, but did not offer a timeline or any specifics.

DLNR: Use Extreme Caution at MacKenzie SRA

Crystal Richard
Crystal Richard moved to East Hawai’i in 2005 to attend UH Hilo. While earning her bachelor’s degree in English and a certificate to teach English as a second language, Crystal served as the editor-in-chief of “Hohonu,” UH Hilo’s academic journal, and as assistant editor-in-chief at “KeKalahea,” UH Hilo’s student newspaper. From a young age, Crystal fell in love with the written word and has always dreamed of a career in journalism. She has worked as a Big Island Now freelance reporter since September 2016. She is a wellness and health advocate who enjoys swimming, gardening, reading and spending time with her animals and loved ones.
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