Turtle Beach Traffic Incites Residents

A Waialua resident has begun a grassroots effort to relieve the traffic congestion along Laniakea Beach.

The spot is a popular location for surfers, beachgoers and countless visitors who stop to view the endangered sea turtles that also make the beach their home.

End Turtle Traffic founder Mike Biechler believes residents of the North Shore support a solution to the problem of constant and increasing traffic along Kamehameha Highway. The organization doesn’t have members, but hopes the campaign, run mostly online, will persuade lawmakers and state Department of Transportation officials to remedy the ongoing problem.

“Laniakea Beach attracts too many people for the current parking and pedestrian crossing infrastructure to support,” Biechler said, “and the state wants to close the parking and restrict access for up to 10 years.”

According to Malama Na Hono, the nonprofit that works to protect the turtles and educate beachgoers, more than 600,000 people stop to see the turtles each year.

A number of solutions have been discussed, one of which calls for a 1,200-foot-long barrier to deter visitors and tour buses from parking on the mauka side of the highway.

The test plan, which could be implemented by the end of the year, has evoked sometimes-angry opinions from residents who want to keep the parking open for surfers and other ocean enthusiasts.

Biechler, who himself favors a crosswalk at the beach, said the effort is more about promoting greater government and community involvement than promoting any one solution. One thing is for sure: He doesn’t like the concrete barrier solution or the long process that so far has created no solutions.

“At the last (state DOT) task force meeting, they basically told us they were going to block it (the parking area) off and restrict access. Nobody was happy about it, and they didn’t present us with any other options.”

One possible solution that was discussed among the community and was presented at another public meeting is the realignment of the road. While this may help eliminate some of the congestion, it’s a long-term solution that could take years to develop and complete.

“Everyone I’ve talked to, and I know for myself, support a simpler method first that doesn’t necessarily block access.”

Biechler’s next effort is to organize a protest Dec. 1, the first day of the Pipe Masters. It is hoped that the sign-waving campaign will draw more attention to the issue, even among those who don’t live on the North Shore.

“It’s not just tour buses and tourists, it’s also surfers who are crossing the road and want access to the beach.”

Anyone interested in getting more information can email Beichler at EndTurtleTraffic@gmail.com or follow the effort on Facebook, and @TurtleTraffic on Twitter.