Campsites and parks prepare to welcome largest vacation crowd since pandemic began
HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) – For the first time in several months, people are heading outside for a big vacation weekend without having to wear a mask.
This includes the city’s campgrounds, which are fully booked for Memorial Day vacations.
While this is a sign that things are slowly returning to normal, precautions are still in place due to COVID.
Tents began pitching on Friday morning at Waimanalo Bay Beach Park, also known as Sherwoods.
“Freedom!” said camper Eki Atanoa as he broiled chicken and short ribs on a grill.
“You don’t have to wear a mask anymore, you are open with the family,” he said.
Some encampments had been authorized during the pandemic, but this is the first big party since Governor David Ige lifted the mandate requiring masks outside. It’s also the first big outdoor vacation without much concern that it could lead to an increase in COVID cases.
“It’s great that the mandate for the outdoor masks was lifted in time for this weekend, so people can really enjoy camping,” said city parks manager Laura Thielen.
Parks staff worked to open as many campgrounds as possible for the Memorial Day vacation. Despite this, only 105 of the city’s 217 sites are open.
One of the reasons for more campgrounds opening is that 55 sites at Bellows Beach – the city’s largest and most popular campground – are closed all summer due to nesting turtles from sea in the area.
The city also limits camping groups to ten people and keeps camps away.
“We’re still keeping the campsites somewhat away from each other more than usual, so people can respect the boundaries, and we’re just asking people to be considerate of each other this weekend,” said Thielen.
Andre Pulido was one of those who pitched tents and pitched them in the sands of Sherwoods.
“It has been a long and difficult year, so glad that everything is slowly opening up,” he said.
Pulido will not be alone.
The state expects this weekend to attract the most people using the parks and trails – and heading for the water – since the start of the pandemic.
The State Department of Lands and Natural Resources is preparing for these crowds.
DLNR law enforcement will be more visible at the Ahu o Laka sandbank in Kaneohe Bay, where alcohol will be banned.
The Waimanu State Campground will also remain closed due to COVID.
The city hopes to reopen more campsites this summer.
“We’re following COVID guidelines and group size, so as we get more people vaccinated – and we’re really encouraging more people to get vaccinated – then we’ll be able to open up faster,” Thielen said. .
Campsites in the city can be booked online two weeks in advance.
As of the last check, the June 4 weekend was already booked and the campsites for the June 11 weekend were all but gone, with only three available Friday night.
Those lucky enough to have a site were thankful to be back outside.
“It’s been such a long time to go camping. It is such a blessing to be here and to go out, ”said Pulido. “I’m just grateful to breathe this fresh air and it all starts up again. It almost feels like life is almost back to normal.
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