Harbor users opposed to fee

MAALAEA – Within a year, the state wants to charge for parking at Maalaea Harbor, much to the dismay of fishermen and those who work on the charter boats in the harbor.

“This is the second windiest small-boat harbor in the world; you don’t have to make it harder for us,” said charter boat worker Nicole “Sparky” Miller, poking some fun at Maalaea’s usually blustery conditions.

“This is our livelihood; it’s not fair,” Miller said.

She said that she works five days a week at the harbor and that a $10 a day parking fee will take a big bite out of her wages. Miller hopes that the parking fee will be assessed to harbor visitors instead of its workers.

Fisherman Chuckie Tomlinson, who was fishing at the harbor Thursday afternoon, said that he and his friends will probably have to go to another fishing spot if parking fees are assessed. He hopes that the state will make an exception for recreational users.

Tomlinson, who frequents the harbor several times a week to fish, did say that if he had to pay, $2 a day would be a reasonable price.

Currently, parking is free at the harbor, but the state wants to charge for parking to generate additional income for repair and maintenance of the facility, said Ed Underwood, Division of Boating and Ocean Recreation administrator for the state Department of Land and Natural Resources.

The plans currently are in the informational stages, and no rates have been set yet, Underwood said in an email.

He added that there was a harbor user group meeting Monday to discuss the proposal. Underwood said that about 40 people attended the meeting and that the general consensus was that they did not want to pay for parking.

“We told them that we can’t keep raising mooring fees, and all users should share in the upkeep of the facility. Because there were so many different opinions, we agreed that they would get together and come up with a proposal for us to review,” Underwood wrote.

He added that another meeting on the issue has not been set yet, although the state would like to implement a parking plan within one year. Once a plan is in place, it will go to a public hearing and then to the state land board for approval, Underwood said.

He added that an option would be to offer free public parking on a first-come, first-served basis.

A parking vendor will be contracted to monitor the parking plan, Underwood said. The vendor would be responsible for designating the parking areas, collecting parking fees, issuing permits and assisting with parking violations, he said.

No gates will be put up at the harbor, he said.

* Melissa Tanji can be reached at mtanji@mauinews.com.