Pesky Peddlers In Diamond Head

Bob Jones
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Wednesday - August 31, 2011
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Puri Das sets up shop in an old bunker in Diamond Head. Bob Jones photo

A tourist couple asked me directions to the Diamond Head crater trail, and added: “Do they sell Cokes and hot dogs at the top?”

I’m surprised somebody doesn’t because peddling is an ongoing activity there.

The only permit on file is for one lunchwagon on the crater floor. Here are the most visible no-permit people using the state monument to collect money.

* Puri, who says he works for Randy Frost, who in turn says he’s with something called 33 Rana Govinda Society. For a $2 “donation,” Puri gives you a stamped I-climbed certificate from the “Diamond Head Preservation Society.” There’s no such registered charity.

* Mitch Berger, who dresses sort of park rangerish and lectures on geology at the summit and then pitches hikers to sign up for $40 rain forest walks with Guides of Oahu. Regulars call him “Ranger Rick,” but he has no connection with state parks.

* Chris, who stands on the trail and says he’ll deliver a shirt to your hotel for a donation to his anti-litter nonprofit. Been there 10 years. His exlawyer says Chris was cited and convicted for petty misdemeanor solicitation. Chris blithely says the state gave up on citing him “because they figure I am not going to leave.”

More than 663,000 people did some or all of the trail this past fiscal year, a substantial customer base.

Why are those peddlers not shut down?

A DLNR spokeswoman responded to my phone calls with an email, saying that “as recently as Aug. 17 officers were at the park and gave a warning to someone who was allegedly selling water. He was asked to leave the park.

“Park rules do allow for individuals to practice First Amendment free speech activities which may include distributing literature or other items from their person (my italics). A permit is required to place a table or chair at a designated location at the trailhead. The person inside the Fire Control Station selling certificates for $2 is exercising his First Amendment free speech rights.” (my italics)

I find that DLNR statement odd. It’s conceding a right to solicit at Diamond Head.

Are the IRS, state tax office and the state attorney general checking out these “nonprofits’” accounting of income?

Selling souvenir T-shirts and hike certificates is a good idea because they provide meaningful memories for visitors.

But the selling should be by the state or the Diamond Head State Monument Foundation, and the money going to one of those entities rather than to Puri, Randy, Chris and Mitch.


three star

Walter Heen, Ben Cayetano, Cliff Slater and Randy Roth are having a cow that the HART project is still crawling along.

They’re hard to figure. We can’t have more cars without more intrusive roads. A street-level train would be a ridiculous competition with traffic.

They seem to be afraid of the future.

Being afraid of the future ruins your present life. 


three star

Bette Takahashi, profiled in last week’s column, corrects me that she is “only 88, going on 89.”


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