Military threatening permanent closure of Bellows

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Marines close Bellows for June

Illegal activities cited, but some say military seeks permanent ban

By Eloise Aguiar
Advertiser Staff Writer

The Marine Corps said yesterday it is temporarily closing weekend public beach access at Bellows Air Force Station to curtail illegal activities, but residents contend the military is trying to push locals out permanently.

The public has been allowed access to the area on weekends for more than 20 years, first by the Air Force and now by the Marines.

The area will be closed all weekends in June while the Marines seek ways to better prevent activities such as drug use, fights, large campfires, trash dumping, off-roading on the beach, alcohol use and vehicle break-ins.

The goal is to have the camp and beach open again for the July 4 weekend, the Marines said in a news release.

The decision was first announced at a hastily called community meeting Friday because of events on the previous Monday, Memorial Day, at the Marine Corps Training Area, Bellows.

Wilson Ho, Waimanalo Neighborhood Board chairman, who was invited to the meeting with Marine Corps Base Commander Col. Robert Rice along with city, state and federal representatives, said the Marines demanded immediate action, including around-the-clock police presence.

“They want zero tolerance,” Ho said, adding that the decision was more like martial law, where demands were presented then the attendees were dismissed.

In their news release confirming the decision, the Marines said the training area “will remain closed to all visitors throughout the month of June due to persistent unsafe and environmentally destructive activities on the beach and in the camping area.”

Ho said the Marines talked about infractions that involved less than 1 percent of the people who were at Bellows on Memorial Day, yet they want to punish everyone.

This was the first he’s heard of any increase in problems at Bellows, he said, adding that the Marines attend every neighborhood board meeting and have never brought up the problem.

popular camping beach

Bellows is the most popular camping beach on the island and typically the city grants permits weeks in advance.

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