PU’U OLA’I BEACH (LITTLE BEACH) AT MAKENA STATE PARK TO CLOSE TEMPORARILY
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(Kahului) – Sunday afternoon and nighttime beach parties with drum circles, nudity, illegal alcohol and other illicit substances, coupled with hundreds of mask-less people in close contact with one another, has prompted the immediate closure of the Pu’u Ola’i beach, the smaller of two beaches located in Makena State Park on Maui.
Social media posts from last Sunday, show an estimated 400 people on the beach. Previous observations and monitoring by personnel from the DLNR Division of State Parks and officers from the DLNR Division of Conservation and Resources Enforcement (DOCARE) show continued disregard for State mask mandates and social distancing guidance.
State Parks Administrator Curt Cottrell said, “Out of an abundance of caution we are forced to take the extraordinary action of closing off Pu’u Ola’i due to the egregious behaviors of a segment of Maui residents and visitors.”
Earlier, in the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s believed a participant in one of the Sunday parties was responsible for spreading the virus to others.
“For everyone’s health and safety we cannot continue to tolerate the lack of personal responsibility hundreds of people are demonstrating every Sunday at Pu’u Ola’i” remarked DLNR Chair Suzanne Case. The parties have the possibility of becoming so-called super spreader events.
DOCARE officers have made repeated trips to Little Beach on Sundays and have issued citations for alcohol violations. “Unfortunately,” commented DOCARE Chief Jason Redulla, “we simply don’t have the manpower to effectively deal with crowds of several hundred people on a weekly basis.”
Closed signs and fencing are being installed at the beginning of the path that leads to Pu’u Ola’i Beach. Big Beach at Makena State Park will remain open and all visitors are reminded to follow all park rules, along with current county and/or State COVID-19 mandates.
Anyone caught at Pu’u Ola’i could be cited for entering a closed area. Chair Case concluded, “Participants in the Sunday gatherings shoulder full responsibility for this closure. It’s too bad their astounding lack of personal responsibility, penalizes everyone else who abides by the rules.”
DLNR will be monitoring the compliance of this temporary closure and examining other more permanent solutions to impeding and eliminating this reckless and illegal behavior on public land that is a valuable recreational and cultural landscape.
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Little Beach Enforcement, Nov. 22, 2020 from Hawaii DLNR on Vimeo.
SUNDAY NIGHT GATHERINGS AT MAKENA STATE PARK CHALLENGE MANAGERS AND LAW ENFORCEMENT
Hundreds Gather with Little Regard to COVID-19 Protocols
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News Release from DLNR, November 23, 2020
(Mākena State Park, Maui) – It’s become a Sunday night tradition that regulars on Maui fiercely defend. Every week, for years, hundreds of people gather at Little Beach (Puʻu Ōlaʻi) to view the week’s first sunset. Long-time participants claim it’s a spiritual gathering. There’s a drum circle and dancing. Drummer George Chyz claimed that drumming is rooted in culture and this is a way for people to show their respect.
DLNR Division of State Parks managers and officers from the DLNR Division of Conservation and Resources Enforcement (DOCARE) say these gatherings are more like big beach parties, with alcohol and drug use, nudity, and littering.
Law enforcement sweeps over the years, including one last night, have resulted in citations for violations like having alcohol in a state park, which is illegal. However, once word spreads through the ‘coconut wireless’ that the police are on the way, people begin to scramble.
At dusk, on Sunday night, as soon as a team of eight DOCARE officers began walking down the beach toward an estimated 200-225 people at Little Beach, the majority packed up and began hiking back over a small ridge, to Big Beach and the parking lot.
Officers cited one woman, a nurse, who had just moved to Maui from Colorado. As DOCARE Lt. John Yamamoto reminded the woman and her companion of the State’s current mandatory mask rules, they both quickly put theirs on. The nurse was cited for having alcohol in the park.
State Parks Assistant Administrator Alan Carpenter said, “I was very taken aback that a nurse who arrived a week ago spent her first weekend on Maui at a potential super spreader event. She presumably will be heading into a hospital soon. These are the kinds of actions that are insensitive and inappropriate anywhere, not the least of which at a crowded beach party.”
While the breaking of rules and laws at Little Beach is always a concern, the COVID-19 pandemic has heightened fears about the potential spread of the virus between unrelated people, partying shoulder-to-shoulder; nearly all without protective face coverings. Earlier in the pandemic several cases of coronavirus were traced back to someone who had attended one of the Sunday drum-circles.
Two drummers, who packed up to leave, once DOCARE arrived, claimed that with Maui’s COVID-19 infection rates much lower than most places on the mainland, there’s no need to worry on the Valley Isle. Kai Knight said, “We trust people and the tourists are being tested, so we don’t worry too much about it. Some people wear masks, and we respect that.”
DOCARE Chief Jason Redulla responded, “These are the very types of attitudes and behaviors that could well set us back. We know from all of the expert health and safety advice, that large gatherings are potential super-spreaders.” Redulla asked, “Is it more important to attend these Sunday night gatherings or to practice personal responsibility?”
Both DLNR divisions, parks and enforcement, are challenged with not having enough resources to regularly and consistently enforce the laws and rules at Mākena and on other state lands where large groups tend to congregate. Enforcement of COVID-19 mandates is particularly challenging because it’s hard to prove that people partying together on the beach don’t live in the same household and thus would be exempted from wearing masks.
The pandemic has unfortunately brought law enforcement, management and health and safety issues to the fore. Redulla added, “We can’t dedicate our entire Maui DOCARE team to controlling the Sunday night parties at Makena, as this diverts our resources from other places and issues that need attention. All we can ask and hope for is for everyone to follow the rules and laws, and especially now to be respectful of others by practicing personal responsibility.”
SA: Large gathering of more than 200 on Maui beach broken up