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Community planning project to explore harborfront area’s history

By Staff | Apr 18, 2013

The IMAGINE plan calls for the installation of a shade trellis along the full length of the harborfront. In this comfortable waiting area for boat passengers, interpretive plaques and small displays could explain the area’s history.

LAHAINA – A free public workshop will be held on Saturday, April 20, from 10 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. at the Pioneer Inn to discuss ways to bring respect to the history and culture of the Lahaina Harborfront area.

The planning session will be led by Interpretive Planners Dave and Mary Bucy.

This workshop, part of the IMAGINE project, is the seventh meeting in a nine-month planning process.

Building on the vision statement for the project, participants in Saturday’s workshop will focus on identifying the significant stories, sites and historical events that took place in the area and how best to share those stories with the public.

Significant sites include the Brick Palace and the area of the King’s Taro Patch. Additionally, the Hauola Stone can be viewed in the water just off the edge of Lahaina Public Library’s makai lawn, and the lighthouse, although rebuilt several times, still stands at Lahaina Harbor where it was first built by King Kamehameha III. Originally lit by whale oil, the lighthouse transitioned to kerosene, switched to electric and since 2008 has been powered by solar energy.

Major problems in the Lahaina Harborfront have been identified by IMAGINE project participants as congestion, loss of historical and cultural identification and lack of management.

At previous meetings, the community developed a comprehensive vision – a plan to address the traffic congestion, plans to beautify the area and a proposal to provide ongoing management.

According to Theo Morrison, executive director of Lahaina Restoration Foundation, these problems have been developing over a number of years, as the number of competing uses of the area have increased.

The study area for the IMAGINE project is Market Street to Canal Street and the harbor to Front Street. This small area accommodates all of the vehicular traffic generated by the harbor, including taxis, tour buses and passengers on the ferries and other boats.

On days when a cruise ship is anchored off of Lahaina, the number of taxis and tour buses in the area is significant. Additionally, there are school buses for King Kamehameha III School, guests arriving and departing from the Pioneer Inn, vendors at the weekend Banyan Tree craft fairs, deliveries to stores and restaurants, and locals and visitors doing business in the area.

IMAGINE project participants identified taxis as a major cause of the congestion, due to the number of cabs in the area, cabs continually and slowly circling the block, and cabs stopping in the middle of the street, especially in front of the Pioneer Inn.

County Councilwoman Elle Cochran’s office has been asked to investigate the legality and feasibility of developing a dispatch system for taxis.

A recent traffic study showed that pedestrian use of Hotel Street was ten to one compared to vehicles, yet pedestrians only have a very narrow sidewalk on the Pioneer Inn side of the street, causing many of them to just walk in the street to get to their destination.

IMAGINE participants felt that the whole harborfront area should be “pedestrian first.” The IMAGINE plan includes a new sidewalk on all sides of Banyan Tree Park, except the Front Street side that already has one.

This new sidewalk would eliminate parking around Banyan Tree Park and would open up the view to the harbor as well as the park.

In the IMAGINE plan, parking will also be eliminated from Papalekane Street and Market Street with the exception of the existing parking for Lahaina Public Library.

Without the visual clutter of parked cars, both Market and Papalekane streets would become pedestrian first, although vehicular traffic would still be allowed.

A new parking lot would be built away from the center of town to replace the parking that would be eliminated in this plan. That parking would be accessed by a shuttle.

A parking survey of the area found that the vast majority of cars parked in street parking in the harborfront area were employee cars. This determination was made due to the local license plates, the amount of time the cars were parked on the street and the frequency that the cars were parked there.

IMAGINE participants also recognized the lack of comfortable and convenient waiting areas for boat passengers. Therefore, the IMAGINE plan includes the removal of the rock planters fronting the harbor and the installation of a shade trellis covered with a green vine with benches and small tables underneath. This trellis would stretch the full length of the harborfront and would also serve as an area to tell the history through interpretive plaques and small displays.

With the number of competing uses in the harbor area, management was seen as crucial to keeping the area pleasant and fully functioning, Morrison explained.

The IMAGINE plan calls for a “harbor ambassador” to be stationed by the hau tree just across from the Pioneer Inn. The ambassador would be tasked with keeping traffic flowing smoothly during peak times, such as boat days and during the arrivals of the two ferries.

The harbor ambassador would also play a role in the taxi dispatch system and enforce the historic district ordinances regarding soliciting of business on public streets, another growing problem at the harbor.

The community is encouraged to attend the April 20 workshop and be involved in this exciting planning project. Light refreshments will be served, and there will be a one-hour break for lunch.

The IMAGINE project is coordinated by Lahaina Restoration Foundation with support from the County of Maui Planning Department. For more information, call 661-3262 or visit www.lahainarestoration.org.