Back in late January, the owners of seven units at Kamaole One on South Kihei Road and two neighbors sent a letter to county and state officials laying out their problems with group of up to 80 people who have been meeting daily at the beach for the past year to play volleyball and allegedly consume alcohol.
The complainants said they are not opposed to people enjoying the public county beach but objected to the behavior of some regular volleyball players, whom they accused of being rude and confrontational at times. The property owners said they witnessed illegal drug use, extreme alcohol intoxication and public urination, as well as loud music and profanity.
One 82-year-old neighbor spent part of her Martin Luther King holiday cleaning up piles of human feces from her backyard, Kamaole resident Karen Wolf wrote to county officials.
The group first tried in vain to get the county park rules enforced, but after consulting with public officials — and eventually the players themselves — came up with a compromise. They would remove some of the dead trees and brush that provided cover for illegal activity and replace it with native species that would help protect the beach from erosion.
In April, the Parks and Recreation Department responded to the neighbors’ complaints by removing the volleyball equipment as well as some sleeping bags and mats. But the residents said police and park ranger enforcement wasn’t working. And the volleyball players wanted their equipment back. The players also retorted that they had a right to be on public property. One of the beautiful things about Hawaii is that everyone owns the beaches, the players argued.
“I would say that the real beauty of Hawaii's beach parks is remembering that they are indeed intended for public use for all types of people to enjoy; therefore, we all need to be considerate of others,” said nearby resident Arlene Taus Salomon.
Salomon has called on Maui County Council members to prohibit organized sports at Charley Young Beach Park.
However, the players cut back their games to just the weekends and toned them down considerably, said resident Bob Pickering.
Nona and Bob Pickering have been involved from the outset and have put a lot of labor into the project.
“We took it from the prospect of being confrontational to saying we all wanted to work together and restore some of the areas that had been trampled upon,” Nona Pickering said. “We met with the volleyball players, and hopefully they will help us plant. It's really turned into a community project, and I think it's going to beautify the entire area.”
It went from being an in-your-face situation to one where people began talking, backing off from one another, respecting others and finally policing themselves, she said.
“And they are actually really nice people,” Nona Pickering said of the volleyball players, some of whom are homeless.
Zoe Norcross-Nuu, an extension agent for the University of Hawaii Sea Grant College Program, checked out the area and gave the group some advice, such as to remove the naupaka shrubs, which can encroach on the beach if watered too much.
“The beach could certainly benefit from some care,” she said.
The neighbors’ plans include using a combination of native plants and a short wooden fence to build up the dune slowly by catching sand. The volunteers are planting akiaki dune grass and hired a crew to cut down two dead kiawe and wiliwili trees along the high-water mark.
They planted 200 pohuehue, or morning glory, seedlings Saturday morning with the help of some volleyball players, Bob Pickering said. They expect to apply for a state or private grant to complete the work.
About a month ago, some Kihei Community Association board members met with neighbors of Charley Young Beach to address their concerns, said association Vice President Mike Moran.
“To me, the games are part of beach life, but the unruly behavior is not OK,” Moran said.
Moran said he agreed with the plan to remove some vegetation that was providing cover for illicit activities and favored plant restoration, as long as it uses drip irrigation, which doesn’t waste water.
State Rep. Joe Bertram III, who represents Kihei, supports the project. He said the native-plant restoration fits in with his plans to create a beachfront pathway, called the South Maui Coastal Heritage Corridor, all along the shore.
“Even though this was happening directly in front of the Kamaole One condominiums, it was affecting the entire neighborhood,” Bertram said.
• Chris Hamilton can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Kihei volunteers (from left) Nona and Bob Pickering and Todd Ruzich plant native pohuehue plants as part of a dune-restoration project at Charley Young Beach on Saturday morning.
The Maui News / MATTHEW THAYER photo