As winter waves begin to push through the northern Pacific and high-surf advisories and beach closures become the norm, Kaua‘i surfers possessing proper passes can surf two breaks located at the U.S. Navy’s Pacific Missile Range Facility at Barking Sands daily.
The breaks are known to surfers as Major’s Bay and Family Housing.
Effective Monday, officials at PMRF are allowing expanded beach access for fishing and surfing, boosting the days anglers and surfers are allowed from four to seven days a week.
“Captain (Thomas) Connelly (PMRF commanding officer) fully understands the importance of allowing the community access to the beach. He has drafted a plan to further increase beach access to seven days a week, while addressing the base’s security and safety concerns,” said Agnes T. Tauyan, deputy public affairs officer for Navy region Hawai‘i.
“I think this is a step in the right direction,” said state Sen. Gary Hooser, D-Kaua‘i-Ni‘ihau. “I thank the base and Captain Connelly for being responsive to the needs of the community.”
“That is absolutely fantastic. It makes the community so much happier. It brings a lot of trust back between the military and the community,” said Greg Holzman, a surfer and Kekaha resident.
While base officials have expanded the number of days the public can use the base, some residents say that they hope that this is a first step in developing a new relationship with the base that will lead to the expansion of the coastal area open to the public at the base.
“This would be a good step forward,” said Andy Johnston, a beach-access advocate and surfer, before the rules were officially announced. “We must have a diplomatic approach and work with (base officials), not against them.”
The new rules, which were released in a statement Monday, announce that base access is open from 6 a.m. to 30 minutes prior to sunset, seven days a week. Access card holders are still limited to parking at and using the Major’s Bay recreation area only, but access pass holders can surf “Housings” as long as they stay on the shoreline.
Kaua‘i residents still must apply for beach-access cards before entering the base. Applications are available at PMRF, and all residents must complete a background check with the Kaua‘i Police Department in order to receive cards.
“This is the first little baby step we have taken,” said Bruce Pleas, a Kekaha resident. “They still have to address fishing. The (seven-day-a-week) plan doesn’t help fishermen,” since Major’s Bay is not a popular fishing spot.
“Currently, the only fishing allowed is throughout the defined Majors Bay area. The fishing areas located at Kinikini ditch and Nohili are being further examined for fishing access,” said Lt. Cmdr. Jane Campbell, the Navy’s top public relations officer, based at Pearl Harbor on O‘ahu, in the statement that announced the rules.
One other area of confusion has been the Family Housing area. While that beach remains off-limits, new rules state that surfers can walk along the shoreline and surf, but cannot bring anything except surfboards with them.
In late September, beach access pass holder, Thor Seraphim, attempted to walk from Major’s to Housing’s in ankle-deep water. When he passed the “No admittance” sign, a base security guard on an all-terrain vehicle told him that the sign was as far as he could go.
While Seraphim argued that he could walk to the Family Housing surf break as long as he was in the water, the security guard told him that that policy had been in effect since Sept. 11, 2001.
“I’ve seen hundreds of people at Housings” since Sept. 11, said Seraphim.
In the statement released by the Navy, Campbell said surfers will have access to Housings.
“The Housing area is defined as the area extending from the northern end of the housing beach down to the southern end at Shenanigans. Again, this area is clearly marked with signs. Access to and from the water immediately in front of Housing is authorized ONLY by walking the surf line back and forth to Majors Bay. No items are permitted on the beach area in front of Housing,” she said.
In addition, all security personnel will be required to carry the new regulations at all times. All those entering the base will receive a copy as well.
“We surfers understand (the security concerns). We just want the beach back,” said Seraphim, adding that it’s not even the beach, just access to the waves fronting the base.
It appears that, at least for Housings and Major’s Bay, surfers will gain the access that they desired.
Staff writer Tom Finnegan may be reached at 245-3681 (ext. 226).
PMRF’s new beach access regulations
PMRF is expanding beach access for fishing and surfing to seven days a week effective immediately. The following rules and explanations will be posted at the Housing Gate at PMRF, and will be issued to all guests authorized beach access as they come on base. Additionally, these rules will be distributed to all military personnel, base employees and visitors. These rules supercede all other rules and regulations regarding beach access:
1. Beach access is authorized for the following persons:
A. All authorized Beach Access cardholders. A Beach Access cardholder is defined as a Kaua‘i resident who has completed a background investigation with local authorities and provided written confirmation of completion, has signed a Memorandum of Agreement between themselves and PMRF, possesses a valid drivers license, current proof of automobile insurance, a current vehicle registration and safety inspection, and proof of Kaua‘i residency. Individual Beach Access cardholders must be at least 18 years of age. Children under 18 years of age must be escorted by an adult, at least 18 years of age or older, who will escort the child at all times.
B. All active/retired/reserve-duty military personnel, their DoD ID cardholding family members, and their guests.
C. All PMRF base contractor and civil service personnel and their guests.
2. The following hours of access must be adhered to: Beach and fishing access is from 0600 until 30 minutes prior to sunset daily. Official sunset times will be posted at the Housing Gate at PMRF along with these rules. This allows for PMRF security personnel to clear the base prior to darkness.
3. Definitions of the recreation area:
A. The only authorized area for fishing and surfing is the Majors Bay Recreation Area. This is also the only area for parking of vehicles for Beach Access cardholders and individuals who elect to recreate in the waters immediately adjacent to the PMRF housing area. Parking is not authorized at Shenanigans or in the Family Housing area. The Family Housing area is for residents and official visitors only. The Major’s Bay recreation area is defined as the area extending from the southern end of the dry ditch (Kawaiele) to the northern end of the housing beach. This area is clearly marked with signs.
B. The Family Housing beach area is authorized for Family Housing residents and their authorized guests (whom are escorted at all times) only.
C. Those persons who have Beach Access authorization and are not Family Housing area residents are required to use the Majors Bay recreation area.
4. Surfing rules: Surfing is permitted in the Majors Bay area as well as the area in front of the PMRF Housing area. The Housing area is defined as the area extending from the northern end of the housing beach down to the southern end at Shenanigans. Again, this area is clearly marked with signs. Access to and from the water immediately in front of Housing is authorized ONLY by walking the surf line back and forth to Majors Bay. No items are permitted on the beach area in front of Housing (coolers, vehicles, chairs, tents, etc.). Driving on the beach is not permitted at any time.
5. Fishing areas: Currently, the only fishing allowed is throughout the defined Majors Bay area. The fishing areas located at Kinikini ditch and Nohili are being further examined for fishing access.
All persons authorized access to the beach are responsible for adherence to these rules. Furthermore, those persons with beach access who have signed a Memorandum of Agreement between themselves and PMRF are responsible for the rules and regulations contained therein. Failure to abide by these rules for beach access will result in loss of base access and/or possible federal prosecution based on the nature of the infraction. Non-compliance by military and base employees, and contractor-sponsored guests, will result in loss of guest privileges for the military member, civil service worker or contractor, and potential permanent debarment of the guest from future base access.
All PMRF security personnel are required to carry a copy of these rules at all times. If you encounter a security person who does not have these rules on their person, report it to the Housing gate guard.
The Commanding Officer of PMRF reserves the right to limit access to the base and adjacent beach areas during periods of increased security measures.