Cut-off Maui town treasures isolation
Kipahulu residents insist only government overkill can spoil their day
KIPAHULU, Maui » Like most Kipahulu residents, Lilly Boerner and her husband, Chuck, don't have electricity.
So after the Oct. 15 earthquakes and torrential rains damaged the bridge and the road that connects them to the rest of Maui, it didn't bother them much.
"We're so used to being off the (energy) grid and on our own," Boerner said.
Farmers like the Boerners say they hope the county, with its fear of liability, doesn't clamp down too hard on travel and hurt their ability to take their produce to stores outside the region.
GARY T. KUBOTA / GKUBOTA@STARBULLETIN.COM
Maui County officials have discouraged anyone from using the back road to Kipahulu, including this stretch near Kalepa, where rocks have been falling. But residents and especially businesses say there has always been some risk involved in travel. CLICK FOR LARGE
The county has put up a concrete barrier to block vehicular traffic from crossing the Paihi Bridge between Hana Town and Kipahulu after the bridge suffered severe structural damage.
County officials have also shut down the back road used by Kipahulu and Kaupo residents, because of the potential for landslides and falling rocks.
The National Guard is flying in supplies like fuel, drinking water and food. A generator powers an icemaker so residents can keep perishables cool.
People are still walking across the bridge to work and farmers have been carrying their produce across the bridge to load into a vehicle on the other side making deliveries to businesses in Hana.
But residents have been struggling.
Seth Raabe voted yesterday at a special polling place set up by the county in Kipahulu then picked up canned goods and bags of food.
"Overall, I found it (the airlift of supplies) has been done really well," said Raabe, carrying cans of tuna, onions, bread and soy milk to his vehicle.
Caroline Rost, 84, said the earthquakes on Oct. 15 were the biggest she's felt and the first time an earthquake has closed a road.
"This is the worst," she said. "It's nice everybody donates these things. We're thankful for that."
Kipahulu farmer Josh Stearn said he relied heavily upon business from a fruit stand for visitors. But since the bridge has halted the flow of tourist traffic, he's lost about two-thirds of his revenues.
"It's been hard for us," Stearn said.
Lilly Boerner said once construction of a temporary bridge at Paihi begins tomorrow, her husband will have to truck the produce down a back road and drive for three and a half hours to make deliveries to Hana.
She said the business, which transports several thousand pounds of organic bananas, papayas, and other exotic fruit each week, employs several people, and her family cleared the land 35 years ago.
"It was all pasture when we planted these trees with our children," she said.
Rather than connect to a public utility, the Boerners use solar power to light their house, heat their water, and power their computers, and propane for their refrigerator.
Boerner said she fears the county will close the back road before reopening the bridge to vehicular traffic and cut off any way to sell their produce.
Lisa Hamilton, a Kaupo resident, said she feared government officials would destroy the beauty of the sea cliffs.
"The danger itself is a part of the experience," she said.
Hamilton said instead of blowing up the cliffs to push back rocks that might fall on people, the county should consider putting up "shed roofs."
Hamilton said most of the rocks falling from the cliffs are small and could be deflected by a roof, similar to those built in Switzerland.
Boerner said she can understand the county discouraging visitors from traveling on the back road through Kaupo because of the potential danger.
"You have to give yourself to God. There's no doubt about it. It's so beautiful you can get lost ... and then you're in danger," she said.