Beaches Back on the Big Island

September 30, 2020, 11:35 AM HST (Updated September 30, 2020, 11:45 AM)
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Hapuna beach on the Big Island before sunset.

Big Islanders can head back to the beach Thursday, and even bring a friend or eight, as Hawai‘i County Mayor Harry Kim has rescinded the restrictions on beach parks that have kept them closed to gatherings for 26 days.

All county beach parks and shoreline parks officially open Thursday morning, Oct. 1, based on the county’s new Emergency Rule 12 submitted by Kim to Gov. David Ige. The governor officially approved the rule Wednesday morning. It will be released by the mayor’s office later this afternoon.

The rule was pushed through despite a spike of COVID cases on the Big Island. The Department of Health identified 27 new cases Wednesday, following just three on Tuesday and zero on Monday.

Anyone attending a beach or shoreline park must wear a face covering, maintain appropriate physical distancing, and limit gathering sizes to 10 people or fewer.

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The Department of Land and Natural Resources has yet to officially reopen state beaches and parks on the Big Island, though that news should come in short order, as the state has committed to acting congruently with approved county directives. State beach parks and shorelines in Hawai‘i County have also been closed since early September, reflecting the aforementioned policy.

County beach and shoreline parks will be open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily, with no activity restrictions or penalties for laying down a towel, propping up an umbrella, or cracking open a cooler. However, some restrictions remain for large groups and prospective event planners.

“Events or activities with the potential to generate gatherings in excess of the permitted maximum number of persons will not be allowed unless a comprehensive plan to protect the health, safety, and wellbeing of participants, officials, supporters, spectators, and other individuals present is pre-approved by the Director of Parks and Recreation,” according to Emergency Rule 12.

Businesses with the required permits to operate on park land will also be allowed to resume operations Thursday. The county reserves the right to cancel all permits and reservations associated with park sites and corresponding recreational facilities.

For the safe operation of childcare programs approved by the Director, the following county parks and recreational facilities are closed to the public from 7 a.m. through 5: 30 p.m. on weekdays:

  • Waiakea Uka Park & Stanley Costales Waiakea Uka Gym
  • Waimea Community Center

The following County parks and recreational facilities remain closed to the
public:

  • All community centers and senior centers
  • All gymnasiums and covered play court facilities
  • Afook-Chinen Civic Auditorium
  • Aunty Sally Kaleohano’s Luau Hale
  • Francis F. C. Wong Stadium
  • Hakalau Beach Park
  • Honoka‘a Swimming Pool (ongoing construction)
  • NAS Swimming Pool (Hale Hanakahi emergency shelter facility)
  • Pana‘ewa Rainforest Zoo & Gardens (ongoing construction)
  • Shipman Gym
  • Waiakea Recreation Center

Camping remains unpermitted. Specific information on camping, as well as beach and shoreline parks, business operations, gathering restrictions, and sporting events can be accessed by viewing Emergency Rule 12.

The Rule also clarifies quarantine location requirements. Short-term vacation rentals (STVR), bed and breakfast (B&B) homes, or other paid or commercial lodging defined by the Hawai‘i Revised Statutes as “transient accommodations” cannot be designated as a quarantine location except for visiting essential and critical infrastructure workers, provided quarantine restrictions are followed.

They also cannot be designated as a quarantine place for new or intended residents.  This is to address persons wanting to use an STVR, B&B, etc. as a quarantine location and staying longer than 30 days.

Persons who have pre-arranged for long-term residential housing of 180 days or longer may utilize such housing as their designated quarantine location, provided that the full 14-day quarantine is served and not stopped early, the rule said. Persons meeting the negative test exception under Section IV.B. and Exhibit B Section 4(2) of the Governor’s 13th Proclamation can designate an STVR, etc. as quarantine location.

Max Dible
Max Dible is the News Director for both Big Island Now and Kauai Now. He also serves as News Director for Pacific Media Group's Hawai‘i Island family of radio stations. He formerly worked as a community reporter for West Hawai‘i Today in Kailua-Kona from 2016 to 2019. Before that, he was a sports editor, sports reporter, and radio talk show personality covering college athletics in Iowa. He's won several regional and national journalism awards, at both the collegiate and professional levels, for breaking news, long-form feature writing, and his work as a sports columnist.

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