VIEWPOINT: Hanakao‘o Beach Park should be a commercial-free zone

Whale season has come to a close, canoe season is underway and school will be out soon. Hanakao’o Beach Park, also known as Canoe Beach, will be the gathering place of ohana, canoe clubs, visitors and residents alike. It is a place where locals congregate on hot summer afternoons or legions of paddlers and their ohana join together in spiritual competition on regatta days. This might sound like an idyllic situation, except for the hundreds of paying thrillcraft customers disrupting the scene buzzing back and forth along near-shoreline waters and on and off the beach.

This is not acceptable. This is a noise pollution and an extreme danger because of the multiple conflicting users of our nearshore waters. People are swimming, paddling, fishing, snorkeling, boogieboarding and diving. Tutu are splashing in the shallow waters with their mo’opuna while paying customers, day in and day out, are being transported in powerboats from the beach to the personal watercraft platform or parasail boats idling offshore.

This is big business with plenty of money added to the state coffers for these activities. But what is more important – the almighty dollar or the safety of our people?

Na Kupuna O Maui would like to preserve Hanakao’o Beach Park as a commercial-free zone. This small but treasured sliced of shoreline is where our community gathers for cultural purposes. This area was once rich with opelu, where Hawaiian fishermen would come to gather from these traditional fishing grounds. This is where we come to lie back, talk story, paddle, swim and play – not to get anxious about our children or our friends or our neighbors getting run over by a power boat operator. This is not about an accident waiting to happen. This is about avoiding another fatality and, make no mistake, the authorities will be held accountable for any accidents that may occur.

For more than year and half, the worries of Na Kupuna O Maui have impacted our enjoyment of Canoe Beach and our ability to exercise our cultural rights. We have led awareness rallies, written letters to the editor, launched petition drives and had correspondence with county and state politicians, including the governor and lieutenant governor.

At this point, there has been no response from the Department of Land and Natural Resources. Na Kupuna O Maui is frustrated and fearful. We are taking action. We demand that Canoe Beach be set aside for the people. We are addressing our concerns to the Aha Moku O Maui Council, a panel enacted by state law (Act 212) to advise the state on indigenous resource management practices.

* Patricia Nishiyama represents Na Kupuna O Maui, a group of elders. She resides in Lahaina.