I was talking to Caren Diamond yesterday about the direct link between the proliferation of vacation rentals and the loss of the public beach. I saw evidence of it the other day at Anini; she’s been watching it happen for the last decade up at Wainiha, near the Y camp.
Still, it hit home in an ugly way when she took her parents to the beach by the Y camp yesterday, only to find that there was no beach, just an escarpment. And the air was filled with the stink of human shit.
“Why would you take us to a beach like this?” asked her father. “Why would anyone want to go to a beach like this?”
It made Caren cry; heck, it would make anyone cry who remembers how gorgeous that beach used to be. Now the sand is all locked up beneath the lawns and naupaka hedges of the vacation rentals there, occupying land that Caren and others had long documented as being washed by the waves and so rightfully part of the public shoreline.
But nobody wants to say no to the richy-rich property owners — did you know Hawaii has the highest number of millionaires per capita? — so they let them build close to the water and operate their houses as high-end vacation rentals. Then they let them install naupaka hedges to protect their homes from the water they wanted to build so close to. Meanwhile, the normal flow of the sand is blocked and disrupted, so the beach starts getting steeper and narrower until voila, no mo beach.
Except for those staying in the vacation rentals. They’ve got nice expansive lawns on what used to be our beach. And the plants, that have been cultivated on the sand, they’ve got beach. It’s just the public that has no beach.
“I thought you won,” said her mom, referring to the landmark decision Diamond vs State Board of Land and Natural Resources, in which the Hawaii Supreme Court clarified that the public beach extends to the highest seasonal wash of the waves.
“I won in the courts,” Caren replied. “But I lost on the land.”
So now one of the most stunning beaches on Kauai is all built up with big houses that sleep 8 or 10 or 12 vacationers each. Nearly all the properties are owned by investment consortiums, and people who do not live here. The beach, which sees some big northwest swell action, is eroding away and the fortress of naupaka keeps growing, extending further makai.
Like too many other places on Kauai, that stretch of coastline has become a private resort.
And we’ve lost our beach.
That's why I cringe when I read Ron Agor, Kauai’s representative to the BLNR, making incredibly stupid remarks like this:
“I have been an advocate for vacation rentals,” he said. “For the life of me, I can’t see how vacation rentals are detrimental to the community and the environment.”
Maybe you’d like to join Caren and me for a beach walk, Ron. We can give you an edumacation. Because a mind, like a beach, is a terrible thing to waste.