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Makena State Park Explored at KCA Meeting

Park official and Maui residents discuss past, present and future of beloved state park.

September 6, 2012
Alan Saunders , The Maui Weekly

Unlike some recent gatherings of the Kihei Community Association (KCA), the Tuesday, Aug. 21, meeting covering Makena State Park was more of a "rally 'round the flag," as opposed to those where "man the barricades" would have been more appropriate.

The review of the past, present and future of Makena State Park offered some hope and maybe some trepidation to those assembled at the Kihei Charter School's middle school campus.

This state park along Maui's shoreline is comprised of two areas known locally as Big Beach and Little Beach. Their collective proper name (and the state park's) is Oneloa.

Article Photos

It was made clear at the Tuesday, Aug. 21, meeting of the Kīhei Community Association that interest in the welfare of Oneloa State Park is not limited to residents of Mākena, Wailea or Kīhei, the park’s immediate neighbors.

Some years back, Oneloa was saved from commercial development by vigorous local action, according to KCA Vice President Mike Moran.

A preamble to the meeting began at 6 p.m. with pupu, conversation and collecting donations of canned goods for the Maui Food Bank.

As the meeting's moderator, David Cordova of the KCA introduced the two main speakers --Maui's State District Parks Superintendent Philip Ohta and Irene Bowie, head of the Oneloa Coalition and a long-time advocate of the public parks' concept.

Cordova noted upon opening the meeting that there would also be a screening of "Save Oneloa," a film produced by two talented and personable ninth grade boys. Their mentor and sponsor, Malia Cahill, the Huliau Environmental Foundation's tireless president, introduced them to the audience.

Jai Litman, 14, a student at Kihei Charter School, is the son of David and Christine Litman of Waihe'e. Jason Schwein, a student at Baldwin High School, also 14, is the son of Kirk Schwein and Nancy Kunuk of Wailuku.

It is apparent the interest in Oneloa is not limited to residents of Makena, Wailea or Kihei, the park's immediate neighbors.

At the film's conclusion, all three were granted a warm and well-deserved round of applause for both their artistic and research efforts--the latter having led them into the history, archeology and the fecundity of Oneloa. Legend has it, that due to its teeming fishery and the fertility of its red volcanic soil, the area once supported a population of some 10,000 Hawaiians.

But after the conclusion of the film came the really hard part--facing the harsh reality of today's semi-stagnant economy and its impact on diminished collected taxes, on top of previous years having been shortchanged as well (the entire budget for all Hawai'i's State Parks is less than $3.3 million).

Illustrating one result of the tight budget for Hawai'i's parks, Superintendent Otha reported that he could only afford to buy a 20-year-old truck as a badly needed replacement for his work crew. Needless to say, given such actions, Oneloa State Park is not likely to be a source for funds--at least for the foreseeable future--which does not mean it will not be approached as needs arise.

Currently, it appears the state is only capable of performing basic maintenance. So the meeting turned its focus to funding alternatives.

They suggested the local population, landowners, Makena Resorts, visitors and nearby merchants who benefit from traffic to the park.

Another idea suggested is to make the park self-supporting--to some degree.

The first idea is to levy parking fees. But the only way to make that feasible is to have vastly increased traffic, which existing roadway approaches might make difficult.

And one of the most intriguing ideas floated was to increase the park's size with some 98 acres to the south.

Then there are the other quality issues to be addressed--how to protect the dunes, native vegetation, and habitats and breeding grounds for the local varied fauna and flora. Without them, the park would be a travesty.

And inevitably, as sorely needed amenities are introduced, issues of insurance, regulation and permitting all raise their ugly and always hungry heads.

But what was most encouraging about the meeting was the willingness of both the audience and guest speakers to contribute ideas and moral support, which was all accomplished with courtesy and warmth, as such a vital topic deserves.

What needed no discussion was the genuine ardor and involvement of those who love Makena Beach. They are the people who will cajole, persist and persevere until the walls to their progress to protect the area crumble.

KCA meets at the Kihei Charter School Middle School at 41 East Lipoa St. the third Tuesday of every month.



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