KAANAPALI - After a three-year, unrelenting awareness campaign led by Na Kupuna O Maui, Hanakao'o Beach Park (Canoe Beach) is now commercial-free.
In a letter to Patricia Nishiyama (a.k.a. Aunty Patty) of Na Kupuna, William Aila, chairman of the state Department of Land and Natural Resources, announced: "Based on input received by the committee (West Maui Ocean Recreation Management Advisory Committee) and community, we have worked with the existing commercial thrill craft and parasail operators and have made the following changes: Relocated the swim buoys further out to sea in order to encompass the entire outrigger canoe regatta area; (and) reached an agreement with the current thrill craft operator to relocate their operations further out to sea"
"As it stands now," Aila continued, "no commercial activities will be occurring on Canoe Beach, and the area is open to swimming and canoe paddling," the state DLNR executive added.
Lahaina Canoe Club held its annual Restaurant Race at Canoe Beach on Saturday. The event is LCC’s main fundraiser. PHOTO BY CHRIS TURNER/RIMFIRE PHOTOGRAPHY.
Capt. Theo (Ted) King, owner of Pacific Jet Sports, confirmed Aila's proclamation with specific details in an open letter "To the Paddling Ohana and Peoples of Maui."
"Pacific Jet Sports, Inc. plans on moving our Jet Ski barge due north; relocating the barge offshore between the Hyatt Regency and the Marriott. Our guests will be instructed to ski out towards open seas, away from the shoreline.
"During the busy summer months of June, July, and August, an employee will be on a ski monitoring our customers at all times. A GPS device will be installed in all our skis with a so-called GPS fence. When a ski exits the designated jet ski area, alarms go off, so our instructors can correct their actions."
Na Kupuna has been steadfast in its crusade for ocean water safety since Uncle Billy Gonzales was hit and killed by a privately operated power boat driver in waters off of the popular West Side beach on Dec. 29, 2011.
According to Nishiyama, "There were two deaths and one maiming in the waters of Maui County in that one year alone."
"This is no longer an accident waiting to happen; the problem is accidents continue to happen," she wrote in a 2012 letter to the U.S. Coast Guard, DLNR, County of Maui, Kaanapali Beach Boat Operators and Kaanapali Operations Association.
Although none of accidents involved personal water-craft, jet propulsion vessels or parasail boats, Nishiyama was concerned about the conflict of uses at Canoe Beach, where swimmers, snorkelers, paddlers and divers play in the near shore and beach-side waters just steps away from where the jet ski operators pick up their passengers in power boats.
"With most of the ocean waters on the West Side currently designated for commercial activities, Kupuna does not think that designating the waters off Canoe Beach commercial-free an impediment to the commercial operators. There is plenty of room for us all," Nishiyama wrote to Aila last year.
The Na Kupuna spokesperson recommended in that same letter, "Designating Canoe Beach commercial-free will benefit us all. With commercial activities assigned to other areas where there is ample space, the safety of our children, residents and visitors will be guaranteed.
"Na Kupuna believes that this is the most equitable manner to address this dangerous situation, resolve future conflicts of usage and avoid unnecessary accidents, including maiming and death," Nishiyama reasoned.
King was accommodating in his open letter to the community.
"Pacific Jet Sports will move its pick-up area in the ingress-egress zone by the Hyatt, to the north side of the zone fronting the Hyatt Spa. Boat traffic will follow a course northward away from Hanakao'o Beach Park.
"To lessen boat traffic," King added, "we will also pick-up customers in the ingress-egress zone fronting the Whalers Village Shopping Center." (Parasail companies operate nearby in front of Kaanapali Beach Hotel.)
"During the annual summer canoe regattas days, Pacific Jet Sports Inc. will not use the ingress-egress zone at the Hyatt Regency at all."
In an interview with Lahaina News, King explained the reasons for the new approach.
"We're doing it, because the people who live here on Maui, the people who pay taxes here on Maui, the people who vote here on Maui, the Mauians have asked me to; and, if I can work with them and work with the DLNR and do what we can and do it safely, why not do it? It makes perfect sense in my mind if we can accommodate all interested parties; what's to stop us? I'm more about cooperation and being safe."
Na Kupuna is most pleased with the new direction away from commercial operations at Canoe Beach. Nishiyama said, "Kudos to King! Our children will be safe, and I can now enjoy the beach, relaxing as my grandchildren play in the water."