(BIVN) – A Hawaiʻi County Council committee on Thursday postponed a vote on a bill to close the Waipiʻo Valley Access Road to pedestrians.
Bill 217 seeks to amend a section of the Hawaiʻi County Code by adding a portion of Waipiʻo Valley Road “running from the Waipiʻo Valley lookout to a point near its entry upon the valley floor” to the subsection on roads closed to pedestrian traffic. The bill was introduced by Hāmākua councilwoman Valerie Poindexter.
In its discussions, the council’s Committee on Public Works and Mass Transit weighed the issue of safety on the steep road, while considering the public right to access the ocean in the valley. Public testimony represented both sides of the issues
Poindexter also sees the pedestrian prohibition as a way to curb the rampant influx of tourists wandering around the valley, often through private property.
“What we want to do is protect the cultural heritage of that valley,” Poindexter said, “to be able to share it for generations to come. We don’t want to over do it, have over tourism, and kill that cultural heritage, and collapse that road. I mean, we need to take action now to provide safety not only for the people of the valley, the residents, the taro farmers, but for the entire public.”
“It’s a place where people like to go and recreate,” said council chair Aaron Chung. “It’s very important for the tourist industry, too, but you know at some point we’re going to have to decide… how important that is as a historical area, and maybe just restrict the access to that place. Maybe you go by permit, you allow certain amount of people to go per month, per year, or whatever it is. I don’t know how you’re going to regulate that, but you cannot just let people go unfettered.”
The bill was postponed to allow for further discussion, including more involvement from the councilmember-elect, Heather Kimball, who was elected to the Hāmākua district seat after Poindexter reached her term limit.