homepage logo

Wild, serene, alive: Preserving the mana of Honolua

By Staff | Sep 7, 2017

The Polynesian Voyaging Society’s Mahalo, Hawai‘i Sail began on Aug. 16, when the voyaging canoe Hokule‘a sailed from Honolulu to Honolua Bay. PHOTO BY MAUI TAUOTAHA COURTESY OF THE POLYNESIAN VOYAGING SOCIETY.

Hokule’a’s arrival at Honolua Bay on Aug. 17 was subtle, just as Archie Kalepa said it would be.

As I worked through the afternoon on a hillside in Napili, I scanned the channel anxiously. Suddenly I heard whooping and cheering. I raced outside to see the majestic canoe, her mast cutting a sharp line through the blazing afternoon glare. A kitesurfer trailed along, a few catamarans flanked the canoe, and far behind followed the water safety crew on a jetski.

Just before sunset I drove out to Slaughterhouse and slinked into the water with fins and a mask. I swam around the corner, diving through a school of a thousand fish, and there as the sun slipped behind Moloka’i, I saw the Hokule’a, at anchor.

It was peaceful, quiet, and serene – the calm before the events of the following days, when thousands of Kamehameha Schools students, locals, visitors, crew members and the curious would descend on the bay and this canoe to pay respects.

I floated at a distance, observing the beautiful boat and the contented warmth of those on board. Tamara Paltin stood at the bow, taking everything in. Timothy Lara ran outrigger canoe ferries to shore, shuttling crew and special guests back and forth. Kalepa stood high in the center of the boat, hands grasping the riggings, smiling and joking and absorbing the beauty of the moment. People greeted each other with the most intimate Hawaiian exchanging of breath.

There were people on shore and on the cliffs, and outrigger canoe crews paddled vigorously out to Lipoa Point and back, but everything was subtle and quiet in the water.

It could have been so different. A few years ago, Maui Land and Pineapple Co., struggling to wind down operations and pay pensions for its employees, had to consider liquidating Lipoa Point at market value, which could have led to houses and golf courses on the point. Thankfully, the Save Honolua Coalition worked tirelessly, and the State Legislature purchased the land to be preserved for public access forever.

A few years have passed since the state took over, and not much has changed yet, which many locals appreciate. Much of the power and mana of Lipoa Point comes from its raw, wild, untamed character. Sure, the whole point was a pineapple plantation for decades, and the land there bears the scars of commercial agriculture, with plastic, pesticides and detritus baked into the soil. But rehabilitation and preservation, for this particular ‘aina, is the correct course of action.

Yet change is the only constant, and the gears of state administration are beginning to turn. On July 18 at Maui Preparatory Academy, the Department of Land and Natural Resources convened a public meeting to solicit community feedback to be focused into a long-term land management plan.

Running the meeting were Russel Kumabe (Honolulu Office of state parks), Larry Pacheco (Maui District superintendent for State Parks), and Mike and John Summers (twin brothers running a consultancy hired by the DLNR to develop a management plan).

In attendance were some key advocates for the sustainable development of Lipoa, including surf photographer and environmentalist Damian Antioco (“Dooma”); Trilogy Sailing Charter representative Riley Coon; naturalist Ananda Stone; Teralani Sailing Charter representative Dave Weiss; local resident, surfer and advocate Manu Akana; Christy from the Pacific Whale Foundation; a 74-year-old Hawaiian representative of Ka’anapali Moku; surf photographer Aldo Tassara; and longtime Caretaker of the Bay Les Potts.

As Mike Summers said, in play are 244 acres of the best recreational and cultural land in the State of Hawaii. The plan that DLNR, the consultants and the community create will be a legacy project, something that goes far beyond us to future generations.

After some brief lectures and presentations, the West Siders took pens to paper, identified current problem activities and proposed solutions.

Problem activities identified included brown water runoff, land-based snorkel tours, trash, tourism disorder, insufficient cultural activities, mauka development, homelessness, uneducated public users, too many boats, disrespect, reef trampling, unlicensed vendors, coral bleaching and invasive species.

Proposed solutions included a ranger station to be staffed by local, Hawaiian resident advocates, a widening of the surfers’ access road, a cultural center, bathrooms, a first aid station, run-off management, and enforcement of existing regulations.

It was a useful meeting – one that connected planners with residents, increased the flow of information, and continued to move a deliberative process forward. There will be more discussions, and then decisions, and then actions; let’s be sure we are all paying attention so we can preserve one of the most truly magical places in the world.

As I said goodnight to Hokule’a, swimming back to Slaughterhouse in the gathering darkness, I felt gratitude, that the Hawaiians had followed the stars to find these magnificent islands, that the host culture is retaining and gathering strength, and that people care enough about Maui to advocate for something as precious as Honolua Bay, and win.