Gathering Places


Sunday, July 8, 2001

Our coastlines need
better protection

EARLIER THIS YEAR, on an evening with a brilliant full moon illuminating the sky, I hiked with several friends up to the Makapuu Lighthouse. On the horizon, the moon rose above Molokai while humpback whales breached in the channel. Waves crashed on the rocks below. The magic was overwhelming.

Thanks to the efforts of the parties involved in the purchase of the Ka Iwi coast, Hawaii's residents and visitors will enjoy and treasure this wild and scenic shoreline for many more moons. Ka Iwi is a great success story; we need more of them.

The immense popular support for protecting Ka Iwi represents the many efforts to protect special coastal lands. We see the evidence of this sentiment every time you get behind the wheel: "Save Sandy Beach," "Save Sunset Beach," "Keep Kealakekua Wild," "Save Something!" Throughout Hawaii, local groups have organized around protecting a particular piece of paradise. Each of these spots is unique and the efforts to protect them have been monumental. But lost in the many individual efforts is a comprehensive vision to protect our wild coastlines. Hawaii has no program to protect these areas and can learn from other coastal states.

California, Maryland, Florida and New Jersey are just a few states that have established permanent pools of funds to acquire coastal lands. Without these funds, Hawaii's residents are forced to defend their particular piece of paradise from a developer's whims. With permanent funding sources, we could take a more cooperative and proactive approach to saving Hawaii's precious coastal places and spend our time enjoying them instead of defending them.

With this purchase, the last stretch of wild coastline along southern Oahu is protected forever. Yet, in the 20 years it took dedicated activists to protect Ka Iwi, how many other areas haven't been so lucky?

At Hokulia on the Big Island, development just north of Kealakekua Bay Marine Life Conservation District has desecrated archaeological and burial sites and on two occasions polluted the pristine coastal waters nearby with runoff that covered reefs with a layer of sediment.

At Palauea on Maui's southern coast, local citizens spent years working with the county to create a public park, but their efforts came up short when the county could not afford the escalating prices of lots as the developer divided up the land and sold parcels. On the Big Island, the northern part of Hapuna Beach has been taken over by the adjacent hotel. Unfortunately, the list continues.

Once these special places are developed, they are gone forever. We need to work together now because there are many we can still protect.

On Kauai, Mahaulepu is the last accessible undeveloped coastline on the southeast coast and a cherished recreation area for both locals and visitors. Its future is uncertain. There are proposals for resort development and a golf course. On the North Shore of Oahu, plans for a park at Kaunala Bay have been shoved aside by a proposal to create a gated community. At Kealakekua Bay, the proposed Keopuka development would desecrate archaeological and burial sites and possibly pollute the pristine waters of the bay. These could be the next Ka Iwis if we work together to save them.

Jay Griffin is coastal conservation organizer
for the Sierra Club of Hawaii.

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