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Some parks reopen as restrictions ease

  • KELSEY WALLING/Tribune-Herald Wailuku River State Park on Wednesday in Hilo remains closed to the public as Gov. David Ige’s restrictions persist amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

  • KELSEY WALLING/Tribune-Herald Wailoa River State Recreation Area in Hilo remained closed to the public Wednesday as Gov. David Ige’s restrictions persist amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Several state and county parks around the island have reopened as restrictions on outdoor activities are gradually relaxed.

The state Department of Land and Natural Resources announced Wednesday morning that seven state parks on Hawaii Island would reopen in a limited capacity after being closed for more than a month in accordance with an emergency proclamation issued by Gov. David Ige in March in an effort to mitigate the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic.

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According to the DLNR announcement, MacKenzie State Recreation Area, Manuka State Wayside and Hapuna Beach State Recreation Area are open for beach or hiking purposes, with parking access reopened to the public. However, all day use facilities at these parks — as well as the Waialea Beach section of Hapuna Beach — will remain closed.

Four other parks — Kekaha Kai State Park, Kiholo State Park Reserve, Lava Tree State Monument and Kalopa State Recreation Area — also opened, but parking will remain closed for the time being.

However, the state still prohibits “conventional park activities such as parties, gatherings, picnics, setting up on the beach and camping,” according to a statement from DLNR Chairwoman Suzanne Case. People visiting these parks must still not congregate and avoid loitering; use of the parks is for “mobile activities” only.

Also on Wednesday, Mayor Harry Kim issued a new emergency rule allowing residents to access six county parks for exercise purposes, including the Hilo Bayfront Trails, Kaumana Lani Park, Machado Acres Park, Wai‘ohinu Park, Clarence Lum Won Park and Wailua Trail.

The Hilo Municipal Golf Course will also open Monday.

“We’ve been trying to reopen our parks in a way that doesn’t invite public gatherings,” Kim said. “These parks are the ones that we really wanted to open as soon as possible. … These are mostly just walking parks; it’s counterproductive to keep them closed.”

The county parks are open “on a limited basis for the purpose of engaging in outdoor active exercise such as walking, jogging and running,” according to the rule. Kim said signage will be installed at each to remind visitors to maintain social distancing guidelines.

Case said the department consulted with the state Department of Health to determine which parks should be reopened. Certain popular parks with main attractions that are lookout points, such as Diamond Head State Monument on Oahu, concentrate crowds into small areas, and will consequently not be reopened for the time being.

However, Case said, the DOH encourages people to take outdoor exercise whenever possible.

“As long as people are on a trail moving past each other, even if they’re within 6 feet of each other and not wearing a mask, that quick pass outdoors … we would characterize these people as low risk (for spreading COVID-19) at most and, more likely, no risk,” Case said, citing the DOH.

While county and state parks are reopening, national parks are remaining cautious.

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Hawaii Volcanoes National Park spokeswoman Jessica Ferracane issued a statement Wednesday confirming that there is no current timeline to reopen the park, although the park is following guidance from the White House, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and local health authorities.

Email Michael Brestovansky at mbrestovansky@hawaiitribune-herald.com.

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