Nature plays second fiddle

The Maui News
Sunday, August 14, 2005

A plan to have some entrepreneur operate a mobile concession in Iao Valley was quickly ended when it was pointed out the valley was the sacred burial place of at least 26 Hawaiian alii and wahine alii.

Iao Valley State Park and its famed "needle" is under the control of the state Board of Land and Natural Resources. The Kepaniwai Heritage Gardens on the Wailuku side of the state park is a county facility. When Native Hawaiian cultural specialist Charles K. Maxwell Sr. heard of the plan, he put in a telephone call to BLNR Chairman Peter Young. Maxwell led the fight to evict T-shirt sellers in the state park in 1996 and considers himself the "caretaker of Iao Valley."

To his credit, Young quickly dropped the idea of a "mobile food concession" in the park.

Mobile food concessions, not to be confused with lunch wagons, according to Young, are planned for all of the state's parks in response to a survey of park users, including many tourists. The idea is to put the concession for each park out to bid with the provision that the concessionaire also maintains the park's toilet facilities. Parks on Maui that are involved include Makena State Park, Kaumahina Wayside Park near Keanae and Waianapanapa State Park in Hana.

The interesting aspect of the food concessions – probably not a bad idea since the concessionaire would also be on site to keep an eye on things – is the plan was set in motion by administrative fiat, without any prior public notice or hearings.

The need for exhaustive public hearings is the reason given most often by officials in the Department of Land and Natural Resources for the years needed to make changes in regulations, including fishing, marine reserves and small-boat harbors. The delays have cost the islands' natural environment dearly, as noted many times before in this space.

Undoubtedly there are legal reasons for time-eating, nature-endangering delays but the fact remains that if it involves tourists – such as regulating beach concessions at Kaanapali – the BLNR can move relatively quickly. Sometimes it appears BLNR and DLNR are more interested in serving the visitor industry than they are with protecting the environment.

Copyright © 2005 The Maui News.

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