Reminiscent of ancient times, white coral lines the trail near the Kihei Boat Ramp.

Reminiscent of ancient times, white coral lines the trail near the Kihei Boat Ramp.

Maui Weekly | Thursday, August 28, 2008 | Scott Broadbent

Kihei Community Association discusses coastal paths and the efforts to create and maintain the historic corridor.  At the Tuesday, Aug. 19, meeting of the Kihei Community Association (KCA), coastal paths and the efforts to create and maintain the South Maui Coastal Heritage Corridor were discussed.

Hundreds of years before French explorer La Perouse landed near Makena, Hawaiian fishermen and farmers, or maka ‘ainana, settled the dry leeward coast in the shadow of Haleakala, tending crops and fishing the waters in outrigger canoes. They carefully maintained trails that joined the moku (districts) and the ahupua‘a, or ribbons of land that ran from the mountains to the shore.

The thin coastal strip we now know as South Maui bustled with activity. Fish ponds and ko‘a—shrines to the gods of fishing—were abundant.

As whalers, traders, ranchers and missionaries arrived, the landscape slowly changed. Fields replaced forests, laborers from other lands planted new crops and waves of American immigrants discovered the sunny shores. Soon resorts and hotels were springing up and coastal paths were all but forgotten.

KCA Boardmember and longtime trail proponent Bob Richardson presented slides and maps showing the progress of the South Maui Coastal Heritage Corridor, which was first proposed in the mid-1990s. In 2001, Bob and his wife, Lis, began clearing an overgrown footpath between the Kihei Surfside Resort and the Boat Ramp. The following year, they attended a KCA meeting where they learned of a larger effort to build a Cultural Heritage Corridor with interpretive signage from Ma‘alaea to Makena was already underway. The initiative was led by a committee chaired by Helen Felsing and KCA members Joe Bertram III and Kimokeo Kapahulehua.

In 2003, the Richardsons recruited friends and neighbors to help with the growing effort and founded Hoaloha ‘Aina (Friends of the Land), which still meets every Monday morning to clear and maintain the path.

The following year, KCA members, officials from the state Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR), Maui police and other concerned groups met and determined the main challenge to the coastal area was severe runoff into the ocean. As a result, “Jersey barriers” were erected and almost immediately, the effort to clean and clear the area and construct the pathway showed progress.

Later that year, the Richardsons believe fate intervened. A storm brought a large quantity of white coral to shore. Kapahulehua, a Hawaiian cultural historian, explained that the ancient Hawaiians had lined trails with white coral, which illuminated the pathways at night by star and moonlight. The coral has now been utilized for that purpose from the Surfside Resort to Kamaole Park III.

Several entities have assisted with the project, said Richardson. “Under the supervision of Cheryl Sterling, the Maui County Office of Economic Development has provided vital funding through grants from the Hawai‘i Tourism Authority,” he said. “Without them, none of the trail improvements or dune restoration would have been possible.”

The state also played an important role. “DLNR Land Agents Larry Pacheco and Daniel Ornellas paved the way for us,” said Richardson. He also praised Stuart Funke-d Egnuff and the staff of the Tri-Isle Resource Conservation and Development Council, a program within the U.S. Department of Agriculture that empowers communities to improve themselves while protecting and developing their natural resources.

Richardson narrated slides showing the trail from the Kihei Boat Ramp to Waipuilani Park. In some of the resort areas, he pointed out grass and irrigation systems on state land. “Some have worked with us,” he said, “by removing barbecues and planting native plants.” In other areas, he explained, homeowners have built rock walls and planted hedges that restrict or block access.

“Some areas are simply not accessible,” said Richardson, such as the area along Halama Street, which is rocky and has homes built at the edge of the shore. “Rock walls built at Kalama Park have affected the natural cycle of the dunes and the ocean is actually moving closer to the homes.”

In those areas, the path will need to run mauka of the homes along the road, he said. In other areas, such as Kama‘ole and Kalama parks, the path appears to end when it reaches grassy areas. The planning committees, Richardson explained, felt a distinct pathway through the parks would not be aesthetically pleasing or appropriate.

Following the presentations, attendees broke up into roundtable groups as KCA boardmembers and DLNR officials circulated, and then presented their ideas and concerns. Group spokespersons Jon Miller, Susan Wyche, Bob Pickering, Cindy Kern and Maury King shared their groups’ thoughts and priorities. Among them: utilizing native plants; providing adequate trash, recycling and ashtray receptacles; creating a standing KCA committee to oversee the trail; and inviting sponsors and community groups to “adopt” portions of the path. Additional ideas included consulting environmental and cultural experts, providing necessary security and enforcement, providing adequate restroom facilities and seeking grants for funding.

A great deal of the conversation focused on signage. The groups recommended consistent, standardized signage that fits in with the environment along the entire trail length, utilizing the signage to educate hikers, numbering the markers for security and enforcement purposes, creating a distinct logo and having a plan to respond quickly to signage that has been stolen or damaged by graffiti.

The public is invited to attend the next KCA meeting, on Tuesday, Sept. 16, beginning at 6:30 p.m. at the Kihei Community Center on Lipoa Street. Candidates for the primary election will be on-hand to discuss their views.

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