10/5/2022 #kihei #conservation #kamaole #buckjoiner
Buck Joiner tells the story of how we got a beach park instead of a two-story shopping mall at Kamaole Point.
From the time of The Great Mahele, 150 years, there was a 2 acre private property parcel between Kamaole Beach Parks 2 and 3. The property was bought by developers October 7, 1988. In 1989 the developers planned to build a two-story shopping center with five restaurants, multiple tourist shops and underground parking. I was on the board of directors of the Kihei Community Association and listened to their very first presentation. My jaw dropped to the floor and my response was, “I don’t think so.”
I spent the next 10 years stopping that development using every method and trick I could think of. I tried to get the county to buy it. They were not interested. I tried to get the state to buy it. They weren’t interested. I tried to get the county to swap land for that. They weren’t interested. I tried to get the state to swap land for that. They weren’t interested. I wrote many, many letters that were published in the Maui News. I got signatures on petitions. I organized sign waving demonstrations. I testified at public meetings, budget meetings, county council meetings. I went to the state legislature and DLNR in Honolulu pleading to make the 2 acres a park. Nothing worked.
After 10 years of being blocked, the developer filed a lawsuit against Maui County. They WON. Maui County filed an appeal in court. A nearly identical situation had occurred on Oahu where the developer took Honolulu County to court and WON. Honolulu County appealed that decision in court and LOST….. BIG TIME!!!!
If Maui County lost the court appeal, the penalty for 10 years of “developer lost income” would be astronomical PLUS the developer would be allowed to build the shopping center.
While all this was going on, I appeared before the Maui County Council, public meetings with the mayor in attendance, every public meeting I could, and I made a promise, over and over, and over: “IF THE COUNTY WILL BUY THE 2 ACRE PROPERTY, I WILL TURN IT INTO A PARK AT NO COST TO THE COUNTY.”
Ultimately, before the appeals court decision, the mayor and developer reached an agreement of $7.2 million for the 2 acres.
About a month or so after that, the mayor signed the check to the developer on a Friday afternoon.
The next morning, Saturday, I was on that site with a group of volunteers and we started the cleanup. It was a junk yard beyond description. There was a collapsed house, burned-out cars, discarded furniture, multiple homeless encampments. It was a hangout for alcoholics and druggies. NOBODY walked across that property between Kamaole Beach Parks 2 and 3.
It took a couple of months to get rid of the many decades of abandoned trash. Truckload after truckload after truckload. Big dump trucks.
Clean-up across from Kamaole Point Park
To go between Kamaole 2 & 3, beach-goers had created a gully in the sand dunes. If not restored, the makai portion would be lost to the ocean. The small Kihei boat ramp had been dredge about a year previously and all of the sand piled at the south end of Kamaole 3. I got permission to use that sand to rebuild the sand dunes. Then I had to get donated front loaders and dump trucks to haul and the spread the sand. To give you a small idea of how difficult this was, one of the dump trucks broke an axle in the process.
With the restoration of the sand dunes, removal of alien species and planting of native shoreline vegetation, the Wedge Tail Shearwater birds began building underground burrows in that area for the first time in about 100 years, according to DLNR aviary specialists Dr. Fern Duval.
There are now (2022) probably well over 1000 Wedge Tail Shearwater nesting burrows in Kihei, Wailea, and Makena. And they all started from the restoration of sand dunes at that 2 acre Kamaole parcel.
It took my volunteers and me three years of weekends to rebuild the sand dunes, eliminate countless invasive plants and trees, bring in and spread many loads of topsoil, climb and trim trees, pull and kill thousands upon thousands of weeds, install a complete irrigation system, all to convert that 2 acre wasteland into a Wailea grade park, with spectacular weed free grass, and placards identifying native plants. Haleakala National Park legendary botanist Forest Starr and Kim Martz assisted in the identification of native and invasive species.
The good house on that property, which is still there, was taken over by the police and essentially turned into a private country club, where the police had regular weekend parties, but nobody else was allowed. As a result of my attacks in the Maui News on that usage, the police left and the lifeguards took over. The lifeguards are still there.
Debris at Kamaole Point
I cannot possibly explain the incredible physical effort involved in that restoration every weekend for over three years. At the end of each Sunday, I was in so much pain that even my eyeballs hurt. Full recovery didn’t happen until Thursday of every single week. I also had a very serious heart attack during that period, but I was in so much pain from overworking, I was not aware of the heart attack. I found out about it 10 years later, during an urgent angiogram, which was immediately followed by a five way bypass.
I KEPT MY PROMISE! The park was created an no cost to the county. I turned the park over to the county Sunday, October 7, 2001 (my birthday #59) with a small public gathering. I invited several Maui newspapers and the Oahu TV stations to attend. NONE CAME.
And the reason was because, it was 26 days after 9/11, AND it was the day we invaded Afghanistan. The nation was in shock and mourning as well as being eager for revenge against any Muslim anywhere. Nobody gave a damn about stopping a shopping center being built on the shoreline and creating a beautiful park.
A few years later, the 2 acre parcel was officially designated KAMAOLE POINT PARK and a sign was put up on S. Kihei Rd.
My hope was that on the 20th anniversary of turning the park over to the county, October 7, 2021, there would be a public celebration at Kamaole Point Park.
But then, there was Covid 19, and lock down/restricted gatherings. There was no celebration.
October 7, 2022 will mark 21 years since my incredible team of volunteers and I created Kamaole Point Park and turned it over to the county. And it will be my birthday.
And that is a very brief summary of the 13 year struggle to create Kamaole Point Park. It exists because I stopped the development of the five restaurant – two-story shopping center between Kamaole 2 and 3 with the assistance of many citizens, volunteers, NGO, and from many businesses.
If I am still alive October 7, 2026, I will try to create a 25th anniversary public celebration. However, I am now deaf and seriously old! The sand in the hourglass is running out.
Mahalo nui loa to all those wonderful, amazing, fantastic people who help from July 1998 to October 7, 2001.