Makena State Park beach-users have waited over 20 years while the DLNR talked about providing comfort stations and showers, but did nothing. Suddenly, the Makena State Park Improvements Project was recently revealed, but where beach-users would NOT easily find it. The so-called public comment period ending Jan 24 2022. Everything was already quietly finalized in consultation with their usual go-to people, with detailed site plans completed 2 years ago (ref. Appendix A) - so comments from the real public (the beach-users) would have just been a nuisance. The details are in THIS 464-page pdf. The following observations are related to the North Lot which serves both Big Beach and Little Beach…
Introductory email, under Action Summary: “Parking improvements include paving, striping, signage, guardrail, and related improvements to the existing unpaved parking areas along the access driveways within the existing parking areas.” Sounds good BUT it is not true.
Page v: Project Summary states: "Implementation of the project will enhance the Park’s accessibility to the community" and "Further, additional parking stalls will be constructed at both parking areas to provide improved access for Park users." Sounds good BUT it is not true.
Page 6 under Parking Improvements: “Paving, curb, walkway, and related improvements are proposed along the existing gravel shoulders of the North Site and South Site access driveways, which currently serve as unpaved parking areas for Park users. This work is proposed to primarily reorganize existing parking of vehicles by park users that is currently occurring on either side of the access roads. Although these proposed improvements will result in approximately 41 additional marked stalls at the South Site [we counted 32] and approximately 97 additional marked stalls at the North Site (including new 5-foot wide accessible walkways to access these stalls), there will be no expansion in use as park users are already using these existing, unimproved areas for parking of vehicles.” Sounds good BUT it is part true, part lie.
Page 183: We ploughed through 176 pages of peripheral information including burial sites to find a different type of burial site containing: THE TRUTH. Under a misleading heading it reads: “The existing parking facilities are insufficient to accommodate the number of Park users, creating congestion as vehicles park outside of defined stalls within the parking lot or along the driveway or roadway. The proposed project would provide marked stalls to replace the improvised and disorganized parking of vehicles along the existing parking area driveway, and the number of vehicles in the lot will be limited to the capacity of the marked stalls to prevent overcrowding.”
Should you have any doubt about the meaning, check out the current South lot - citified and unnatural. Shoulder parking is prevented by crash barriers. Hatching or No Parking signs limit parking to the marked stalls only. It’s a KEEP-EM-OUT Policy - clearly shown in this video. Also, remember that street parking used to be possible on both sides of Makena Road, then the DLNR posted 17 No Parking signs all along the State Park side of the road on each side of the N. lot - to KEEP-EM-OUT.
Page 4: The site plan shows the limits of the new marked stalls which stop at the 2nd speed bump. From the entrance to the 2nd speed bump there will be 92 natural shoulder parking spaces lost. The site plan shows 10 marked stalls on the current gravel triangle. We counted 25 cars comfortably parked in the triangle - so 15 natural parking spaces will be lost. Total loss = 92+15 = 107 parking spaces - as shown in this video.
These are perfectly fine natural parking spaces, not "improvised and disorganized" and not "creating congestion" as the DLNR mischaracterizes. Maintaining the natural character is one of the fundamental principles in the creation of Makena State Park - which makes natural parking legitimate parking. Marked stalls will total 152. Current parking space total is 152+107 = 259. The reduction to 152 will be a 41% reduction - primarily affecting peak demand at the weekend when hard working families get a chance to enjoy the beach. [We hear you!]
Overcrowding - True or False?
Big Beach and Little Beach linear feet total = 4,300 ft.
Beach average dry sand width = 140 ft approx.
Total dry sand area = 600,000 sq ft approx.
Proposed N. Lot marked stalls 152 + proposed S. Lot marked stalls 92 + slashed parking spaces 107.
Total parking = 351 cars, averaging an estimated 2.2 persons per party.
600,000 sq ft / 351 cars = 1,710 sq ft per 2.2 person party
= 40 ft x 40 ft of sand for a 2.2 person party.
Current parking could support 351 x 2.2 = 772 persons approx.
That’s peak, most of the time the Park is almost deserted.
By standards elsewhere, this is a lightly utilized beach.
There is no overcrowding that needs to be prevented.
The beach will be under-utilized and, instead of slashing parking spaces, additional parking on the South side of the existing North lot is warranted.
Let’s get a 2nd opinion:
In 1977, the State prepared the Mākena - La Pèrouse State Park Master Plan to create recreational access to the area while maintaining the inherent value of its natural condition and historic resources. For the combined Big and Little Beaches the Plan stated: “nearly 15 acres of pure sand” and “Beach Capacity: 3,000 individuals per day. (The estimated sandy beach capacity is based on the Statewide Comprehensive Outdoor Recreation Standards for moderate beach use intensity).” That would amount to 1,095,000 visits per year.
In Senate Testimony in support of the funding of 2 comfort stations, former DLNR Chair, Suzanne Case stated: “In 2007, the Hawaii Tourism Authority completed its Hawai`i State Parks Survey which identified 525,400 visitors to Makena State Park” and “In 2017, the Department anticipates this number to be over 600,000.” She made no suggestion of an overcrowding problem, and why would she when 600,000 visits per year is about half that given as “moderate beach use intensity” by the State’s Master Plan.
In accordance with HRS §226, the Recreation State Functional Plan (1991) was prepared and coordinated by the DLNR. Governor John Waihee stated: “Implementation of this plan will ensure that current residents, visitors and future generations will continue to enjoy the unique experiences our islands’ coasts and mountains have to offer.” The plan specifically requires development of visitor capacity at Makena State Park to ease saturation at other South Maui beaches. The DLNR management now plot to do the exact opposite. They shamelessly claim compliance with HRS §226 (on p.94) while pursuing a KEEP-EM-OUT policy - slashing parking spaces and driving visitors away to other South Maui beaches by charging exorbitant fees.
While DLNR management and special interests were yelling “Overcrowding” the opposite was true. The DLNR’s previous estimate of 600,000 visits per year, has plummeted in 2023, evidenced by unoccupied car parking space. The North Lot would often fill up to near the park entrance and now it is barely ¼ occupied. The only attraction is the beautiful beaches, not the scrubland, and Maui has 30 miles of beaches that are free - as should be all Hawaiian beaches. Makena State Park is now yet another underperforming State asset.
Page 4: The North Lot Site Plan shows the comfort stations at the back of the existing car park. This is a 700 ft round-trip walk across hot asphalt beyond the existing porta-potties location. Assume the construction is designed for 100 years life and the park gets 600, 000 visitors per year (as testified by Suzanne Case in 2017). That could mean 60 million persons trekking 700 ft across hot asphalt just because the current DLNR management has no regard for the comfort and enjoyment of park visitors.
This distant location, with porta-potties removed, will act as a deterrent, causing more beach-users to relieve their discomfort in nature - defeating the main purpose of the project.
Page 186: The most obvious location for the Comfort Stations is opposite the existing porta-potties. Amazingly the DLNR considered this location and dismissed it. They said "Due to concerns over impacts to cultural, natural, or archaeological resources associated with Pu‘u Ōla‘i, the proposed comfort station was relocated."
Check it out. This is not on Pu‘u Ōla‘i, the cinder cones, any more than is the parking lot. It is further from Pu‘u Ōla‘i than the existing porta-potties. This area is dense with kiawe trees, an invasive species, some fallen - nothing uniquely natural to be preserved. If there was anything cultural or archaeological, it would have been destroyed by the deep Kiawe roots. There is nothing to suppose this location is more sensitive than the selected distant location, other than someone’s personal opinion.
Page 4: The North Lot Site Plan shows the shower adjacent comfort stations. Another distant walk where it will be under-utilized. Most folks, when leaving the beach, do not want to get their bathing suit dripping wet when it has already dried off. Wet bathing suits leave water ring stains on car seats. This location will have more environmental impact because it will attract use by homeless and others who use soaps and shampoos.
If the DLNR’s interest was in serving the public, the shower would be located on the sand, just behind the lifeguard station. Then folks could rinse off and dry off before leaving the beach. Folks on the beach will be rinsing off salt and sand, cognizant of the environmental notices that warn not to use soaps and shampoos.
Construction Lock Out
Last time the North lot was undergoing renovation, the entrance gate was closed to prevent vehicle access. A police officer was posted to prevent pedestrian access via the shoreline access corridor. There was no attempt to use cones to define a safe access rout via the lot - demonstrating that the DLNR has little regard for the beach-users. Street parking anywhere near the South lot was taken. There was no easy way of reaching Little Beach.
During this project, when there is work on Makena Road there will be single lane traffic control. There is no information re maintaining access to or through the North lot. The stated project duration is 12 months. If history repeats itself, access to the beaches will be willfully obstructed by the DLNR management.
There has been no genuine public comment period. If the DLNR wanted genuine public comment they would have announced an improvement project hearing on the Division of State Parks website, or better still, at the entrance to Makena State Park. The DLNR’s repeated claims of community consultation are a sham. They have consulted with their usual go-to people who are predominantly cultural activists and environmental activists (not scientists) who share the DLNR management’s Keep Them Out mentality. Their interests and opinions are not aligned with the thousands of beach-users. The beach-users are the biggest stakeholder but are only now learning that there is an “improvement project,” because the DLNR has kept it from public view. All stake holder’s opinions must be sought and valued.
The DLNR should remember that Makena State Park was made possible by the 4,000 member SPAM grass roots movement that secured the land to prevent resort development, and to maintain its natural beauty “for the people” - not to restrict access of the public by reducing parking space on the false claims of overcrowding. The DLNR should not forget that the legislature, under HRS §184-6, granted the DLNR the management of the State Parks “for the use and enjoyment of the public” and the “use and enjoyment of the public” is in direct proportion to the amount of parking space.
If there was a public comment period or a hearing, what would the beach-users say? The DLNR should consider that they may tell you to shelve it. How will they weigh the inconvenience of the comfort station and shower locations vs. the loss of closer porta-potties, loss of 41 % of parking spaces, 12 months of obstructed beach access, and the $2.1M of State money that could be better spent? They may prefer that Makena State Park remains in its more natural state? They may prefer it to be a Maui County Beach Park?
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