HANALEI — Robert Pa, known around Kauai as “chief,” got a surprise when he made his daily visit to Black Pot Beach Park on Friday morning.
The North Shore resident pulled into his usual parking spot by the river, and got a message on his phone that something was happening between county employees and community members.
“I was like, ‘what? Here?’” Pa said. “I couldn’t see nothing, so I went up there and sure enough they were trying to put a gate up at the beach by the pier.”
Dustin Barca arrived at the beach at about 7 a.m. Friday after hearing through the coconut wireless about the county’s plans.
“This is where families go to be together,” Barca said. “You cannot restrict access here.”
The County of Kauai earlier announced beach parking was going to be restricted at Black Pot Beach Park due to erosion issues that made it unsafe.
The county planned to place a chain across the vehicular access to the beach, near the base of the Hanalei Pier, completely cutting off vehicular access to the beach.
“Timeliness was important as we felt it would have been unsafe to allow cars to continue to access this area over the weekend,” said Sarah Blane, county spokeswoman.
A public notice was issued Thursday and work commenced Friday.
But, cutting off the vehicular access is a problem for Pa because it’s the only place he can launch the Zodiac he uses daily.
“The state’s boat ramp, the way that’s set up I have to back my van into the water, and the other is a private boat ramp where I have to pay,” he said.
After a conversation between county Parks Department Director Lenny Rapozo and community members, including Barca and Pa, a compromise was struck. Instead of a chain, the county placed boulders further down the beach.
“(That) prohibits vehicles from driving to the unsafe portion of the beach while still allowing access to the area near the pier,” Blane said.
The conversation ended in a handshake, according to Barca and Pa.
“They were starting to dig the holes and we stopped them. We found a way to work together. That’s the way it is here,” Pa said.
Even so, Pa said he thinks the gate installment was the first step of the county’s plan to nearly double Black Pot Beach Park, adding more parking, restrooms and areas for buses to turn-around.
“They want to California-cate this park and turn it into something from the Mainland,” Pa said. “But it is what it is and it’s our way of life.”
Blane said the vehicular restriction isn’t related to the park’s future potential expansion.
“This was a measure taken in response to a public safety concern and unrelated to the Black Pot Master Plan process,” she said.
The administration is reviewing a draft of the Black Pot Master Plan, which it received last month, according to Blane.
The administration continues to provide feedback to the consultant, and once the draft is updated it will be submitted to the County Council for further review and approval. The administration anticipates submitting the revised draft to council by the end of this year, Blane said.