Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Musings: In Defense of Wildness

The celestial star of the show this morning was not a star at all but Venus and the thumbnail moon, all snuggled up together. The air was scented with mock orange and the delicate fragrance of an angel’s trumpet tree heavily laden with large white blossoms.

Heavenly was the only word to describe it, and then along came farmer Jerry, admiring the same scene on his way to work, and we agreed that pre-dawn is the best part of the day — along with the part when our labors are over.

I told him about sitting with a friend in the afternoon sunshine yesterday on a North Shore bluff, watching whales spout at 9, 11 and 1 o’clock, with albatross, brown and white boobies, and iwa soaring overhead and turtles and manta rays feeding at the edge of the reef.

She and I delighted in the sheer abundance of wildlife — and absence of people — and Jerry told me that’s one reason why he never supported the bike path, because he didn’t think it would benefit wildlife to funnel hundreds of people into coastal areas where they now can’t easily go.

I have to agree. The section between the Kapaa boat ramp and Kealia isn’t so bad, because much of it is right along the highway already. But I shudder at the thought of it extending northward to Anahola, through the last wild beaches on the eastside.

What will happen to the ilima there and the other coastal natives when the ground is cleared and concrete poured and herbicides sprayed to keep everything all neat?

I’d been hoping Hawaiian Homes wouldn’t give it the go-ahead, but they already have, according to their communication director, Lloyd Yonenaka, who replied to my email:

With regard to the bike path, the county already has a license from DHHL for the bike path and the bike path is also listed as a priority project in our Anahola Regional Plan as determined by the community. We expect the project will proceed with input and involvement of the community with the county and their consultant, SSFM. DHHL will assist, at least initially, to ensure input and involvement of our beneficiary community with county's consultant.

I know some of the homesteaders getting lots along the coast there want the path so their kids can bicycle down to Kealia. But how will they feel about all the people it’s going to bring right past their homes, to the beaches of Anahola, the last bastion for Hawaiians on the windward side?

It’s almost heresy to be against The Path, as it’s now reverentially called, but do we really want concrete ringing the island, which will bring with it all the county rules and regulations in places where there are now no restrictions?

Of course, Andy Parx, on his blog, pretty much blew apart the county’s contention that The Path is a county park, and so dogs can be banned, an issue that caught the attention of Star-Bulletin cartoonist Corky.

And then there’s the issue of spending all that money to build something out of concrete in an area that is both in the tsunami zone and subject to rapid coastal erosion. As one bicyclist observed, what will happen when The Path starts to buckle, crack and break, as it will inevitably? Will the county shut it down as a liability?

Yes, I recognize that a lot of people would rather walk on a flat surface than the beach, and that it’s dangerous to ride bicycles along the highway.

But I also recognize that wildness is precious, and it’s an attribute that's rapidly vanishing from Kauai. Does The Path have to go everywhere? Can’t we just let some places be?

1 comment:

Koohan Paik said...

Bikes or no, the bike path is still "development". And, as happens with development, it will still result in erosion, spraying, and the diminishment of the already disappearing native flora and fauna on parts of our precious coastline which is still undeveloped, amazingly.

In the earliest meetings in support of the concrete carpet, the leaders would show films showing the success of bike paths in European cities, as if there were some analogous cultural/environmental connection between Antwerp and Anahola! Europe -- a continent that was first citified thousands of years ago is of course a no-brainer for bicycles. Kauai, on the other hand, is still pristine in many places they want to grade and conretize.

So, again, we robotically fall into colonial consciousness (if we ever left it to begin with) and presume the customs of outsiders (like us) are better. We think, if they have bike paths in Europe and Portland and Austin and Berkeley and Madison, it must be great for Polynesia! A pity that colonial logic can come even from progressives.

Hell, with progressives like these, who needs developers?