Maui beach debate seeks naked truth

Many residents fight to keep Little Beach clothing-optional

Honolulu Star-Bulletin
Thursday, November 8, 2001

By Gary Kubota

MAKENA, Maui -- Scores of residents and visitors indicated they support nude sunbathing at a beach in South Maui.

But at least a couple of Maui residents, who attended a public meeting last night, said they were opposed to any public nudity and would not take their families to the beach if people continued to use it as a clothes-optional area.

"I won't take my daughters there," said Uilani Endo, a Kahului resident.

Endo said because of its lengthy shore break, Little Beach is the safest place for bodysurfing in Makena and ideal for teaching children about the ocean.

She said she has not been to Little Beach since 1985 because she does not want her children to be near nude sunbathers.

More than 130 people attended the public meeting at Waena Elementary School cafetorium last night to discuss the future of Little Beach and the adjacent Big Beach within the 60-acre Makena State Park.

A state-appointed task force has been gathering testimony to develop a new plan for the beaches, including the possibility of restricting nude sunbathing to certain days.

The last plan was developed in 1977.

Lying near the Puuolai cinder cone, Big Beach has a sandy shoreline that stretches for about three-quarters of a mile. To the beaches' north over a volcanic hill more than 60 feet high lies Little Beach, where some people sunbathe in the nude.

Hiking from the state parking lot across the sand to Little Beach takes about 15 minutes.

Nudity is illegal at state beaches, according to state park regulations. But the relative isolation of Little Beach has apparently made many feel comfortable to dispense with their clothing.

Former Maui police officer Charles Maxwell said state and county law enforcement officers tried in the 1960s and 1980s to curb the practice of nude sunbathing, but without success.

Residents note that in some visitor magazines, Little Beach has been described as a place where people sunbathe in the nude.

Residents who support the clothes-optional beach say about half the people at the beach are visitors who choose to sunbathe in the nude, and the area serves as a tourist attraction.

Tom Collins, president of Friends of Little Beach, said many families still use the beach, and many residents have decided to visit and live on Maui because of Little Beach.

Collins said Friends of Little Beach has at least 250 members and that members participate in beach cleanup.

Collins, interviewed later, said he learned only about a week ago about the task force meeting and needed time to consider whether he was in favor of restricting nude sunbathing at Little Beach.

Several residents said a number of states have nude-sunbathing beaches, and Little Beach represents only a small strip of land on Maui for their recreation.

George Harker, a retired university professor and Kihei resident, said the Travel Channel has ranked Little Beach 10th among world-class nude beaches. Harker said closing the beach to nude sunbathing would result in the loss of millions of dollars in tourist revenue.

"Like it or not, Makena State Park is the crown jewel of state parks, and the attraction is clothing-optional sunbathing," he said.

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