Did you know that every month we have a public "town meetin'" here in Kihei (right out of "Footloose," minus Kevin Bacon)? Sponsored by the Kihei Community Association (KCA)-- acting as a public community "voice" for South Maui, since it does not have official city representation--these meetings are a volunteer effort to inform the community of problems, opportunities and decisions affecting the residents and visitors of this very special place--issues of environment, development, parks, housing, public works and more.
At this month's meeting on Tuesday, April 16, at least 60 attendees discussed baby turtles, the Kalama Park whale statue, local student filmmakers and friendly cops on bikes. Featured speaker George Rixey, architect and former KCA president, presented a talk on the future development of South Maui.
The evening started off with a "Sense of Place" segment. Each month, members of the community highlight why "Maui no ka 'oi."
Introducing their film shorts are Megan King and her brother, Ben, from Lokelani Intermediate School’s Waverunner Productions, a program that teaches students storytelling through film.
This month, two student filmmakers, Megan King and her brother, Ben, represented their group from Lokelani Intermediate School's Waverider Media program with two of their film "shorts."
The first film, a PBS award-winner, features Skippy Hau--local hero and aquatic biologist for the State of Hawai'i. Among many contributions to the community, he is also a watchdog for honu (Hawaiian sea turtles) in Makena State Park. The film stars tiny baby honu and their nests. Hau said the honu population is on the rise, due to the efforts of the community.
"We should always respect nature, and we should be taking care of nature I'm very fortunate--very lucky job that I have," said Hau in the two-minute video.
The second film starred the giant, life-sized whale statue in Kihei's Kalama Park, which has been vandalized numerous times over the years, and the woman who cleans and protects it. Pauline Fiene puts in several hours a week caring for the statue.
"I think it's a special marker for Kihei," Fiene said. "I don't suppose there are many places in the world where they have a giant whale statue. It's a wonderful thing that Kihei and Kalama Park have."
So inspired by her story and devotion, these school students went on a field trip to help her care for the statue.
When asked how they select their film topics, adorable and bright Megan answered with a smile, "We get everyone together and have a big brainstorm--find stuff we're curious about."
For instance, she explained that everyone knows the Kalama Park whale statue, but few people actually know the story behind it. It was created about 25 years ago by Elan Vital, who has a gallery in Wailea.
"It's not finished, actually," Megan pointed out. "It's supposed to be a beautiful water fountain. It's supposed to be whales jumping out of the water."
Why is she doing this? Because "she wants to tell stories," she said, and because "it's fun."
Learn more about Lokelani Waverider Productions and view the videos at www.digital808storytellers.com/LokelaniWeb/index.html. Call Student Supervisor Maysie Tam at (808) 875-6800, ext. 246, for more information.
Next up was new community Police Officer Emily Kibby, who's been with Maui Police Department for five years. She replaced a retired Officer Brad Hickle just last month. She spent some time explaining her new job, to act as a "liaison between different community organizations and the department" and to seek creative, workable solutions between groups.
Officer Kibby monitors the radio for emergencies, but is also South Maui's public permit contact, which entails environmental assessment, races, parades, festivals, block parties and other community events.
She is starting a bicycle patrol--a very effective vehicle for patrolling parks, she noted.
With a background as a junior high and high school teacher, she's specifically interested in projects with kids, such as the one she's working on now with the Kihei Youth Center to prevent gang violence.
Officer Kibby is also available to participate in or help initiate neighborhood watch groups.
She invited the public to email her with neighborhood or any other concerns at Emily.Kibby@mpd.net.
Now for a bit of history about your town and those who've helped design it: In the late 1990s, the KCA formed a Planning and Development Committee to review development projects to ensure that they build in accordance with smart growth principles and that Kihei be developed with a pedestrian focus.
Per the 1998 Kihei-Makena Community Plan, Kihei was to be developed into four neighborhood centers--unique gathering places for people within walking distance of their homes--Azeka, Kalama Park, Kama'ole, and North Kihei.
"A lot of people are really heartfelt in protecting the environment here and the town itself," said Rixey. "The basic gist [of the community plan] is to make South Maui a walkable, neighborhood-friendly, community-oriented, non-vehicular-oriented community--and a beach community."
The KCA received a grant to develop road design guidelines to ensure pleasant, walkable streetscapes, including shade trees, sidewalks, bikeways and roundabouts.
Rixey noted studies finding that roundabouts are statistically much safer for pedestrians and automobiles and ensure slow, continuously moving traffic. The cost of installation should be approximately the same as a traffic light, noted Jon Miller, former KCA president (2008-12).
"And besides," Miller added, "they're beautiful."
The KCA consulted with national leaders in urban design to create these guidelines, which are available on the KCA Website at www.gokihei.org/committees/planning. (Google smart growth for more information about accepted smart growth principles.)
The public is invited to next month's meeting on Tuesday, May 21, when South Maui water will be discussed. Everyone is invited to attend the monthly meetings, with or without becoming a member, to voice opinions, concerns and suggestions. In turn, the KCA strives to represent South Maui to politicians, developers and other special interest groups.
KCA meetings are held the third Tuesday of each month at 6:30 p.m. at Kihei Charter School in the Lipoa Center in Kihei. Doors open at 6 p.m. for pupu and talk-story time with your neighbors.