Group seeks to convert idle cane haul road into West Maui Green Way
WEST MAUI – Networking aficionados Saman Dias and Lee Chamberlain are on a mission and determined to deliver a safe biking community for the West Side through the advancement of a West Maui Green Way for both bicyclists and pedestrians.
“We are paving the path to safer walk-able and bike-able communities on Maui,” Dias told the Lahaina News.
And the Kahana residents are moving ahead at mach speed, reaching out and seeking collaboration and support from multiple stakeholders.
Sen. Roz Baker (Sixth District, South and West Maui) is impressed by their fervor.
“Saman and Lee are working tirelessly to share their love of bicycling with others. They are great advocates for bicycle safety and improved cycling infrastructure and are translating their passion into action.”
“They’ve heightened awareness,” the lawmaker observed, “by lobbying for improvements in infrastructure – more bikeways – and public policies at both the county and state levels.
“The green way corridor is an exciting project that will greatly benefit residents and visitors alike. It would not be happening without their determination to provide healthy and fun options to get outdoors, get some exercise and enjoy the beauty of West Maui,” Baker added.
Saman described their vision: “We have been advocating to take the cane haul road from Olowalu all the way to Napili, which would be about 15 miles, and turn it into a bike/walking green way.”
They’ve fortified their passion with knowledge.
“We heard about this program that was going on called MAP 21 (Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century). It is a federal program that supports bicycling pedestrian pathways,” Chamberlain explained
They flew to Oahu and attended a MAP 21 training seminar in the spring of 2014; and, when they returned, empowered, they drafted a multi-pronged action plan.
Since then, with their enthusiasm contagious, their progress has been remarkable.
“The big takeaway from the training seminar we went to was if you want to advocate, you need people supporting you, your advocacy. We knew right away we needed to start a nonprofit,” Dias said.
“We asked Hawaii Bicycling League folks, based on Oahu and around for 30 years, if they would allow us to create a subchapter,” she added.
Thus, the Maui Bicycling League (MLB) was formed in January 2015.
Governed by a 13-member steering committee, the MLB represents bicyclers island-wide.
Its purpose as posted on their website (mauibicyclingleague.org) “is to represent bicyclists and pedestrians in the movement to create safer roads, stronger communities, and a bicycle/pedestrian-friendly Maui. Through information, advocacy and promotion, the Maui Chapter of the HBL will work to celebrate and preserve the freedom cycling and walking brings to its members everywhere.”
Engaging the major players was an important step in the process, Chamberlain advised.
They took Olowalu Town Developer Bill Frampton and Na Ala Hele State of Hawaii Trail and Access Program Maui representative Torrie Nohara for a ride from “Olowalu up to the coffee plantation via the cane haul roads, then circled on back,” Chamberlain said.
“Now,” Chamberlain commented, pleased, “Na Ala Hele has partnered in this project with us,” with Board Member Donna Clayton leading the charge on the West Side.
“I support their plan enthusiastically,” Clayton advised. “The green way will provide a safe place for residents and visitors to exercise, be a venue for races; certain areas are excellent for horseback riding and others better for walking and biking.”
After the ride, Chamberlain said, “Bill Frampton let me know about Peter Martin. I reached out to Peter Martin (in 2014) and began talking to him about a bicycle pedestrian pathway, and we came up with a plan. He (Martin) said, ‘Let’s just do the simplest thing. Let’s just use the cane haul road that runs parallel to Honoapiilani Highway; and then I own part of it, and the county owns part of it, and then it goes all the way up to Napili,’ ” Chamberlain advised.
The 15-mile plan was subsequently presented to Mayor Alan M. Arakawa in a meeting held on Feb. 3 of this year.
Amenable to the concept, the county chief executive recommended the green way be downsized, at first, to a three-and-a-half-mile pilot pathway from Olowalu to Lahaina and back.
“Within less than two months,” Dias added, “MBL coordinated rides to explore the West Maui Green Way with Councilmembers Don Couch and Elle Cochran, followed by Public Works Directors David Goode and Rowena Dagdag-Andaya and a ride with the mayor.”
Other partnerships have been established during this campaign, including the Lahaina Boys and Girls Club and the Coral Reef Alliance.
It’s an easy pitch, Dias said, with so many benefits for the public, including less traffic, less CO2 emissions, and healthier and safer transportation alternatives at a lower cost, to name a few.
“We have a resource there that is being underutilized dramatically. It would be easy to go ahead and convert it into what we call a pedestrian bicycle path. It would start a new industry almost,” Chamberlain noted.
The cost to construct is minimal comparatively, Chamberlain said. “It is just a pedestrian bike path. If we did one ten-foot-wide, two inches thick of asphalt, it would cost $140,000 a mile, compared to the $100 million dollar cost for three miles of the Lahaina Bypass.”
The pair is seeking support from the community. They welcome new Maui Bicycling League members: “Help strengthen our voice and be a part of change!”
“We are passionate about making a difference here on Maui,” Dias stressed. “We love Maui and want the best to preserve its beauty in every way.”