Commercialism at Kapiolani Park hits a nerve
"Commercialism is really rampant. It's out of control,” said retired parks worker Tek Yoon.
This summer, Yoon complained to the Honolulu Parks Department about the surf school operating at Queen’s surf beach.
"They are commandeering picnic tables.
The picnic tables are for families and stuff, but they are here all day every day running this surf class," said Yoon.
But that’s not all. Yoon said earlier in the morning there were two groups holding exercise classes in the area as well.
In frustration, Yoon turned to the Kapiolani Park Preservation Society for help.
"You are not allowed to hold commercial classes in the park, you are not allowed to use it as your office, you are not allowed to park your equiptment in the park or anything like that, and this is the thing that KPPS gets the most complaints on," said Kapiolani Park Preservation Society‘s Alethea Rebman.
Rebman says some groups may not realize that Kapiolani has special protection under a park trust. She has tried to reach out on a friendly basis to put them on notice.
"Stroller Strides, which sounds like a good activity, but they use the park as their office. We get complaints about the boot camps because they bring in tires and take over a large area, and the yoga classes," said Rebman.
Rebman has asked the city and state to help rein the activity in.
This week our cameras documented the Hans Hedemann Surf School conducting classes on the beach.
Their van is parked in a metered space across the street.
Their surfboards are registered with the state, as required by law, but the department of Land and Natural Resources doesn’t have jurisdiction over commercial activity at Queens Surf beach, although it does at San Souci beach around the corner.
"This particular surf school that Mr. Yoon is complaining about. They were involved in a Supreme Court case with the Kapiolani Park Preservation Society just a few years ago. That is, it was the Hawaii Supreme Court. The issue was the impact that they are having on the neighborhood. So, they are fully aware of what they are doing," said Rebman.
The Hans Hedeman School of Surfing told KITV the company does not believe it is operating illegally and has not been cited.
The city's parks director Michelle Nekota said told KITV that commercial activities like the surf school or exercise classes at Kapiolani are not allowed.
"They do not have permits they cannot do commercial activities. We can send them letters of warning like we have in the past but we can’t enforce it. Our employees will try and monitor it but they will have to call HPD to enforce it," said Nekota.
Meanwhile the state has drafted new rules that would regulate commercial companies doing any kind of instruction or tours in the ocean.
"They need to come to us get a permit. There is a fee of $200 dollars, or 3% of their gross every month," said Oahu district's boating manager Meghan Statts.
The rules are expected to be sent to the governor's office for his signature this month.
With no crackdown by the city parks department, the complaints go unchecked and the city essentially allows the commercial venders to operate unregulated--while making money off a public resource.
We asked for clarification from police about enforcement of the park rules.
HPD said it is looking into it.
Across the country the issue of commercialism and friction with park users is growing with some cities taking steps to regulate the activity.
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