DLNR cracks down on beach-wedding permitting

The Department of Land and Natural Resources will require permits for all commercial beach weddings taking place on state beaches and unencumbered lands, effective Aug. 1.

DLNR — which manages state marine and freshwater resources, parks, forests, beaches, harbors, leases, conservation and unimproved lands in the state — has been pursuing greater compliance with its permitting requirement for commercial activities on state unencumbered lands for several years.

“Our department has the public trust responsibility to manage the state’s public lands and natural resources,” said Laura H. Thielen, DLNR chairwoman. “We are guided by a hierarchy of resource management priorities, which is first, to protect our natural and cultural resources; second to provide for public resident recreational access that does not damage those resources; and third, to allow commercial activity only if it does not impact the natural and cultural resources, or the public’s recreational use.”

During the first several months this year, DLNR received a large volume of requests for right-of-entry permits for commercial beach weddings on Maui and Kaua‘i. At the same time, the Department realized that many commercial wedding businesses have been operating on state unencumbered lands without permits.

Consequently, the department decided to reassess its existing permitting process to consider improvements that could promote greater compliance.

A streamlined right-of-entry permitting process for all commercial wedding operations on state beaches is in the works. In considering these improvements, the department is seeking to address the industry need for speed and certainty and still respect the capacity limits of popular beaches.

DLNR is currently considering an online permitting system, similar to the existing DLNR reservation system, for commercial operators using the state’s Na Ala Hele hiking trails.

“An online system incorporates a lot of the features, such as timely processing and flexibility, that may eventually provide near-instantaneous permit processing over the Internet, a feature that members of the wedding industry previously expressed would be desirable,” said Morris Atta, DLNR Land Division administrator.

Adapting that system to suit the respective needs of the resources, recreational users and the wedding industry requires the gathering of data that identifies the times and locations where commercial weddings may be permitted, as well as the capacity limitations of each site.

The agency has been holding meetings in all Hawai‘i counties to explain state procedures already in place for commercial activity on state beaches, the right-of-entry permit system DLNR will use, and improve the department’s understanding of the scope and nature of the commercial beach wedding industry for better management purposes.

Current application forms for right-of-entry permits are available at all DLNR district offices and on the Land Division Web site, www.hawaii.gov/dlnr/land/forms-1/forms

An applicant for a right-of-entry permit must identify the location and size of the area requested for the event, the county tax map key number for the site, provide proof of liability insurance coverage, and pay a fee. A map showing the requested location must also be attached to the application.

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