WEST MAUI - The concept of a Pali to Puamana Parkway has been on the county drawing board for over a dozen years.
It's a proposal to realign the eight-mile coastal transportation corridor along Honoapiilani Highway linking West Maui to the rest of the island.
To many West Siders, Highway 30 is much more than an asphalt roadway; it's a cherished connection of the people to the land and the ocean beyond definition, designation, study, ownership, acreage and price tag. It's the gateway to the soul of Lahaina.
The county is interested in purchasing the areas marked in green near Launiupoko.
"It's one of the only places left where you can just pull off the road and watch the sunset without having to find a parking space in a hotel parking lot first," one passionate local told the Lahaina News last weekend.
The fear, real or not, is that the proposed highway will be realigned mauka. Developers would then have the opportunity to sell the land along the shoreline for the development of "rich man estates," thereby blocking traditional access for fishing, surfing, camping and communing.
Championed by Mayor Alan Arakawa, a Pali to Puamana Parkway Master Plan was drafted in 2005 by a task force of 14 community volunteers. To read it, go to hi-mauicounty.civicplus.com/docments/17/69/71/243/MasterPlaFeb2005_20130212121345342.pdf.
In 2006, Arakawa took the first step toward realization with the county purchase of 100 acres in Ukumehame for $4 million from private landowners.
Seven years later, Mayor Arakawa is back in office and ready to take step two with a request forwarded to the County Council to amend the budget earlier this year.
The matter was referred to the Budget and Finance Committee chaired by Mike White.
The Makawao-Haiku-Paia councilman updated the Lahaina News on the status of the amendment.
"The Budget and Finance Committee received a Fiscal Year 2013 Budget Amendment from the mayor for the acquisition of two properties at Launiupoko... consisting of 148.409 acres and 37.731 acres," he explained.
"The Budget Amendment is for $6,500,000 from the Open Space, Natural Resources, Cultural Resources and Scenic Views Preservation Fund and $6,500,000 from County General Obligation Bonds for a total sales price of $13,000,000.
"The committee held a hearing on the item on Tuesday, February 26, 2013, and heard a presentation from the Office of the Mayor. The item was deferred pending a visit of the subject property," White said.
There were questions about the price of the land.
"I do believe the area should be preserved. However, the committee must review the purchase price, the costs involved in developing a park and providing ongoing maintenance," he said.
The Budget and Finance Committee site inspection is scheduled for Wednesday, April 10, at 3 p.m. The location will be announced next week in the Lahaina News. Public testimony is welcome.
West Side Councilwoman Elle Cochran supports the vision but is candid about her position.
"That is way outrageously overpriced. We need to talk about that This site is the worst part of the land. They (West Maui Land) are not going to build there," she commented.
"Let's go and have a site inspection, and let us see the land that they are so kind to sell us, and what land they're keeping for development and luxury homes. Let's see the difference here, because they are selling us the area that is just totally crap land; rocks, gullies, you name it. It's not even practically fit for a park; so much work has to go into it."
Matter-of-factly, Cochran challenged the landowner, West Maui Land.
"They haven't given back in any way to the community - no park credits, because they bypassed all the public review. There was nothing that was ever given back. For me, I think that this whole strip could be given as a park dedication for the whole entire Launiupoko project. Period," Cochran concluded.
Lucienne de Naie, nonprofit leader with Hawaii Land Trust and Sierra Club, to name a few, has been following the slow progress of the parkway project over the years.
"Practically speaking, this stretch of Maui's coastline is biologically, historically and economically important and is part of our local lifestyle," de Naie said.
"Biologically, the greenway will allow a natural filtration process for up-slope runoff to be filtered and protect the amazing and biologically diverse reefs found along this shoreline.
"Historically, this area is rich in legends, historical sites and long-term cultural use. Generations of Maui families have lived in and visited this eight-mile stretch to fish, swim, surf, gather limu, camp and enjoy family time," she explained.
Although de Naie supports the concept, she has "some concerns about the land configuration being presented to the council for purchase."
She asked for clarity: "It is not clear to me exactly what the county is paying for."
Mike Foley, former county director of planning and Napili resident, is a diehard advocate of the plan.
"I've supported the project from the beginning, before we hired Oahu consultants R. M. Towill, who completed the Pali to Puamana Parkway Master Plan, February 2005.
"It's an amazing opportunity," he continued, "to protect eight miles of coastline from development."
Cochran would like community input.
"Maybe my office should do a community meeting about this," she said. "I would like to have it more open for everyone to discuss."