LAHAINA - With its wide array of boat charters, visitor activities, island ferries and cruise ships, Lahaina Harbor in recent years has become a source of irritation in the community due to vehicle congestion, including numerous taxis, buses and little infrastructure for passengers. In effect, the core of the Lahaina Harbor area's culture and history has been smothered by its commerce, noted Theo Morrison of Lahaina Restoration Foundation (LRF).
Over the years, the foundation noticed the worsening condition of this important cultural and historical area. In June 2012, LRF received a $50,000 grant from the Maui County Planning Department to hire consultants to work with Lahaina's community at a series of public meetings to develop a vision and plan for the Lahaina Harborfront. This process was called IMAGINE.
From August 2012 to May 2013, well-publicized community visioning meetings were held. By June 2013, a final conceptual plan was published, addressing problems and proposing solutions for what the community wanted to see at the Lahaina Harborfront. The implementation of this plan will beautify the area, emphasize its history and culture, reduce congestion and make it safe for all users.
A temporary crosswalk between Banyan Tree Park and the Pioneer Inn was installed for Celebrate Historic Lahaina in August 2013. Creating additional crosswalks is one of the ideas developed during the IMAGINE planning process to make the Lahaina Harborfront a pedestrian-first area.
LRF invited County of Maui Mayor Arakawa to a walk-through of the project area. He liked the proposed vision and agreed to put funding for the project in his Fiscal Year 2014-15 budget. At the time, Maui Friends of the Library (MFOL) was embarking on a landscape plan for the Front Street side of Lahaina Public Library. Since the MFOL plan was aligned with the same values as the harborfront project, the two projects were combined as one.
In August 2013, LRF used funds from the Mayor's Small Town initiative to put ideas from the IMAGINE planning process into action. "Celebrate Historic Lahaina" was a one-day community event that brought the area's history and Hawaiian culture to life through hands-on activities such as tapa-making, poi pounding, sampling traditional Hawaiian foods, ancient and modern fishing techniques and much more.
A temporary crosswalk was made across Hotel Street for pedestrians going to and from Banyan Tree Park, and planters were installed on the harborside of Pioneer Inn for the day's event. A dryland kalo patch was created on the Front Street side of Lahaina Public Library, and kalo corms were planted.
Focusing on Lahaina's history and culture, and a pedestrian-first environment, Celebrate Historic Lahaina showed what the Lahaina Harborfront could become.
With interest in the project running high, O L Moore Foundation Hawaiian Trust donated $5,000 to offset the cost of interpretive plaques for the area. LRF received an anonymous donation of $10,000 to be used on the project, and Mayor Arakawa unveiled his budget, including $750,000 for Phase I of the project.
Over the past two months, LRF's board members and executive director have been meeting with Maui County Council members and attending budget hearings to request support for the project.
At the end of May, the County Council approved the FY 2014-15 budget with a line item of $750,000 for the Lahaina Harborfront Project.
Morrison, executive director of LRF, said, "We are thrilled to have received the funding to begin implementing the community's vision for this important area in Lahaina. I want to thank everyone who attended the IMAGINE meetings and shared their thoughts and concerns. We've all worked hard for the past two years to bring this plan to fruition, and we will continue to keep the process transparent as details of the project are finalized."
The project timeline, commencing July 1, will entail 14 months of planning, designing and permitting, with construction beginning in the late fall of 2015.
Phase I of the project features irrigation and landscape improvements for the area as well as installation of a shade trellis and benches in front of the harbor slips.
Improvements on the Front Street side of the library include stabilization of the old stone wall, planting several beds of kalo and native shade trees, installation of interpretive plaques, benches and a bike rack, and widening the sidewalk.
The project steering committee members are Morrison; David Allaire, LRF board president; Riley Coon, LRF board member and harbor representative; Ke'eaumoku Kapu, CEO of Aha Moku O Maui; U'ilani Kapu of Na Aikane O Maui; Sara Foley of Maui Friends of the Library; and Jerry Kunitomo, community leader and owner of Lahaina Pizza Company.
For more information, view the interpretive plan at lahainarestoration.org /guidelines/.