Friday, July 11, 2008

Musings: Mish-Mash

Koko and I kind of follow the sun, which has put us out and about well before farmer Jerry and my neighbor Andy for some weeks now. But the days are already getting shorter, so soon we’ll be rising later, too, and will have a chance to again see our old friends.

Even if you’re not an early bird, the sky is well worth checking out at about 5 a.m. You’ll see big, round Jupiter, with its golden glow, shining low in the southwest, while rising in the east is my favorite, Pleides/Makalii, and I know some of you reading this will understand exactly what I’m talking about when I call it the home constellation.

Today is gonna be a mish-mash of stuff. First, some of the most shocking news I’ve read lately was the piece in today’s Star-Bulletin about putting lifeguards — finally — at Kee Beach. It seems that an unbelievable 700,000 people visited that little spot at the end of the road last year.

That is absolutely nuts, and the wear and tear is showing, not only on the beach and surrounding Haena State Park, but the locals who live down there and have to deal with the crowds and non-stop traffic — all in the name of accommodating tourists.

Doesn’t Kauai have any limits? Or is the philosophy just bring ‘em on until everything collapses under the strain? And in typical state fashion, even though it gets lots of use, it doesn’t get much maintenance money, which is why only now some decent toilets are being put in.

The best news I’ve read lately was printed in Current Concerns. It reports Monsanto has to pay Canadian canola farmer Percy Schmeiser for contaminating his crops with their GMO strains.

As you may recall, Monsanto tried to sue Schmeiser for patent infringement, claiming he had illegally used their product and so they owned the harvest. But because he was able to prove he’d never used the company’s GMO seeds or herbicide, he was acquitted. He again discovered GMO plants in his field in 2005 and had them professionally removed, sending Monsanto the $660 bill. When Monsanto refused to pay, Schmeiser sued.

Monsanto later agreed to pay, but only if Schmeiser agreed to keep the whole matter under wraps. He refused, and an hour before court hearings were set to proceed, Monsanta settled — with no confidentiality agreement. It just goes to prove that GMO crops cannot be contained and even the little guys can sometimes win against ruthless, deep pocket giants like Monsanto.

Thanks to John Tyler for that, and also for noticing in yesterday’s Garden Island that the county found 1,050 vacation rentals advertised online, but only 129 registered for such use. That means about 90% are under the table, and the county could be losing out on $3.03 million in tax revenues because people are paying residential rather than resort property taxes.

Wonder how many of those are owned by off-island residents? At any rate, maybe the prospect of money will finally prompt the county to deal with the issue.

And finally, I was talking yesterday to the artist Keala Kai, who has lived his entire life in Kapaa, and he offered this perspective about the bike path:

“In the past, when it was the cane road, there was plenty of room and nobody had any problems. You could go with your horse or whatever and everybody got along. When people were down there, they were looking for fish, or watching the ocean, just minding their own business.

"Now it’s too structured. Everything has been concentrated into a four-foot path, so everybody’s just looking at each other. That’s when they start complaining, he’s not doing that and he should be doing this and you get all kine trouble. People need to get off the path and back on the beaches, where they can reconnect with nature."

Can't argue with that.


Katy said...

Joan, has there ever been a serious discussion about creating a "local traffic only" rule past Princeville, or Hanalei? Would it be possible to require those without a resident permit, or some kind of temporary (expensive) visitors' permit to take a shuttle to the end of the road? (I'm thinking about visitors who might be lodging at Hanalei Colony resort or something.) Those little shuttles that the zip line tours use would work, I think, with the bridges. It seems that a shuttle that goes every half hour would sure cut down on the traffic- realted misery over there.

Katy said...

I mean, "traffic-related."

Anonymous said...

Katy, I think your idea would raise equal protection problems.

Andy Parx said...

Back in the early 80’s I remember writing a column about how they were trying to turn Kealia into a county park and thinking how different it was from the city where a park is a good thing- a little green reserve in the middle of the concrete. But here and in other rural places they take an unspoiled place and put a fence around it and call it a park, where they make up so many rules and restrictions that no one goes there any more.

That’s why many of us were so trepidatious over things like the bike path project and Lydgate expansion and the “organization” taking over planning and implementing use restrictions.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous: It seems like there are many places where parking is restricted to those with resident permits. Could that, combined with a shuttle, work?

Joan Conrow said...

Katy, there's been talk for many years of running a shuttle past Princeville. I never recall equal protection being an issue, and am not sure why it would be, but the bigger problem was finding a staging area where all those cars would park. It would pretty much have to be P'ville land, and they weren't keen on using it for that.

Anonymous said...

As long as it isn't a pretext to keep people out and ensures equal access to everyone it would probably be ok. But the county can't create what is essentially a private beach for locals.

Anonymous said...

A shuttle by itself would not create any equal protection issues. Limiting traffic to locals would potentially raise equal protection issues.

Anonymous said...

A shuttle past Princeville is the only way to deal with the issue as the North Shore is already beyond capacity and we don't want a four lane highway to Ke`e. Vehicles can be restricted to locals(Think Yosemite). Princeville may be willing to park cars if there was a North Shore Visitors Center with some commercial activity to make it worthwhile. (Think pragmatically). It would be worth it for a North Shore with out rental cars.

Anonymous said...

regarding the path: It is ten feet wide minimum. Access is for everyone including people with disabilities and mobility impairments. We need, as a community to learn how to use the path and share as other communities have. Regarding Kealia: The land there was private from the vegetation line to the highway. We could have ended up lined with luxury homes with periodic ten foot wide alleys to the sand. Given reality I like the way it is now with equal access and facilities for families.

Anonymous said...

Let me get this straight. you're talking about restricting access to local vehicles because of the traffic and the outsiders and the crowded beach? Is this the same blog that routinely excoriates others elsewhere on the islands for having roughly the same attitude? What the heck is the difference between this and any other 'gated' mentality"?

Joan Conrow said...

The difference is that all people would still be able to go there (unlike a gated community), it's just that some would get to drive and others would have to take a shuttle.

As for the prospect of luxury homes at Kealia, I don't think that scenario was too likely. There's very little space between the veg line and the road, and I don't think too many of the fancy pants crowd would want to live right next to the highway.

Anonymous said...

"But here and in other rural places they take an unspoiled place and put a fence around it and call it a park, where they make up so many rules and restrictions that no one goes there any more."

caka de toro.

The problem is Lydgate and Kealia are now so popular you can barely park a car on busy days. Perhaps oppositional defiant types can't deal with a few rules, but for the most part these parks are overrun with users. Adding facilities expanded their appeal from what I can see.

We can all get along. The path is wide enough ata 10-12 ft + verges. Most of the flap is from people who don't want it to exist at all, like Mr. Parx.

Anonymous said...

While that is a lot of people, an average of 2000 per day (say 700 cars), I don't see any analysis of whether it is a problem. Sure Ke'e is not as deserted as Larsen's, but it's not Waikiki yet, either.

One solution would be to open up more beach access (with some parking) between Haena beach park and Ke'e. A few pullouts with space for 20-30 cars and some trails through the forest would open up the nearly-deserted parts of the beach.

However, that's just going to spread out the impact. If there really are too many cars, then they should be limited, either through strict parking or possibly a shuttle.

For the parking solution, DLNR just needs to figure out capacity and then strictly regulate parking beyond that. No discrimination, except in favor of early risers. Then if traffic is an issue with people having to drive out and back because they didn't get a spot, a shuttle can be considered.

If it were just a Haena beach park-Ke'e shuttle, you wouldn't have the isse of resident vs visitor car access, everyone would just take the shuttle since there are few properties out there.

The idea, essentially, that state parks should be free (either easy access or monetarily free) for HI residents and not for visitors is a long-running issue. On the face of it, it seems unfair, but how does the county justify charging non-residents for county campgrounds when they're free to residents (when state campgrounds are the same price for both)? I really think the solution (other than an enlightened government budget that would use more tax money to run the parks well) is to have entry fees.

With a staggered pay scale, say $5 daily admission and $20 yearly to all parks, you can achieve the same thing. Heck, the national parks do this, so it must not violate equal protection. I think some residents, especially the Kanaka Maoli, will oppose any park access fee on principle, but I also think it is insignificant enough to provide a compromise.

I think visitor education is also a big part. If visitors know and understand there's a problem, they'll be more inclined to go along with parking restrictions or shuttles to preserve the quality of the experience for everyone.

Then there's the whole question of whether tourism will continue to increase. It seems likely to take a nose dive due to high airfares, and then the problem will resolve itself.

Anonymous said...

In the comment that said Kealia was "private from the vegetation line to the highway," I assume they were talking about the Kealia Kai area between Kealia and Donkey beach.

I think the "donation" of the land to the county was part of the permitting process that allowed the developer to subdivide the ag land and sell it off as luxury estates. So no donation, no luxury homes without a lot of permitting battles. Of course, it also worked in favor of the county, because the value of that donation represented the 10% local funds that the county used to get the 90% federal funds for the bike path.

Anonymous said...

So you're saying it would be cool with you if a rich neighborhood along a stretch of beach claimed it couldn't take the traffic and decided that only residents could drive in there and that anyone else who wanted to get to the beach would have to take a shuttle. You're saying you wouldn't raise an eyebrow (much less the roof).

Joan Conrow said...

No, Anon. 11:06, that's not what I'm saying. I haven't even said I favor a shuttle. I just explained the history, and the difference between a shuttle system and a gated community. I would not advocate that only residents of a specific neighborhood could drive there; that would be the same as gated. But I would feel fine about distinguishing between visitors -- who are the ones causing the impact -- and Hawaii residents.

My concern isn't just about traffic, although parking there is a mess and I feel for the folks who get 1,400 whooshes past their house daily as those 700 cars go in, and back out. I feel the entire area is overused. Andy K's right: some sort of carrying capacity needs to be set — for all of Kauai, actually.

Anonymous said...

distinguishing between visitors and residents is exactly how you get equal protection problems. You'd have a hard time convincing anyone that it is visitors alone and not visitors and Hawaii residents who are "causing the impact."

Anonymous said...

What if it targeted parking, instead of driving. In other words, you can only park past Hanalei if you have either a resident's permit, which would come with your car registration, or a visitor's permit which would cost a certain fee, which could be used for maintainence and shuttle services. Additionally, there would be shuttle service, which would cost a nominal amount. This is no different from many cities where resident parking permits are required to park in certain areas, and in fact it's pretty generous since it allows non-residents the option of parking with a fee, or alternately riding a shuttle.

The key to cutting down traffic would be to making the visitor permits more costly than parking and riding the shuttle.

I think the traffic problem out there affects everyone pretty equally, but most particularly those that live on the highway. I don't see the concern about this being much of a class issue.

Anonymous said...

> My concern isn't just about traffic, although parking there is a mess and I feel for the folks who get 1,400 whooshes past their house daily as those 700 cars go in, and back out. I feel the entire area is overused. Andy K's right: some sort of carrying capacity needs to be set — for all of Kauai, actually. <

Experience would suggest there is no limit. Not with tourism.

...The inherent problem of communities that succeed in attracting so many people is that their very presence destroys the cultural and environmental amenities that made the place special.

- Hal K. Rothman, Devil's Bargains -- Tourism in the Twentieth-Century American West

Anonymous said...

great post joan. i'm visiting in santa cruz ca. there are numerous areas where local residents have parking permits issued to them(there is a fee associated w/it covered by local taxes). parking is allowed by permit only. visitors can purchase day use parking permits. local residents also can receive visitor parking passes per resident for their guests. tourists and visitors have to pay for parking. there are free parking areas away from the high use areas and shuttles are available to get folks where they want to go. its a hassle for sure but it helps manage the impacts, especially in the summer months when visitor counts are high and locals are impacted from folks escaping the inland heat and want to cool off at the beach. if you don't get a permit and get busted for illegal parking you pay through the nose.
in tahoe, i lived near a state beach access and parking lot. there was a state run kiosk where you had to pay to park during certain times of the day but if you paid your local taxes and provided proof of residency you were issued a sticker that allowed you to park and use the access area unrestricted. it seemed like an equitable scenario for folks wanting to use the parking facilities. could possibly work for kauai. state parks in california are expensive w/day use fees and camping fees collected extensively but you could purchase a year pass good for all parks and recieve reduced camoping fees as well. the national park system also has a similar 'Golden Eagle' pass good for a year and allows free entrance. they used to be $25 a year but have probably gone up. i would be glad to pay a user fee or some hybrid of the systems in place elsewhere if the revenue was used for maintenance, programs or improvements and not dumped into the general fund. just some thoughts from the other side of the pacific. aloha aina,....jimmy t

Joan Conrow said...

Thanks, JimmyT, for your observations. Now that's the useful kind of citizen journalism.

Anonymous said...

useful journalism = only what supports the readers bias? Maybe that's why Lois Lane got taken off the Superferr - er - Superman beat.

Anonymous said...

> useful journalism = only what supports the readers bias? <

I'm assuming you read Jimmy's post and Joan's response carefully, and thought them through thoroughly, and as a result you concluded that Jimmy's post is not useful journalism, and Joan labeled it that purely because it supports her point of view.

You did do all that before you posted, right?

> Maybe that's why Lois Lane got taken off the Superferr - er - Superman beat. <

I'm assuming you've researched the history of that situation, and as a result have come to the conclusion that there wasn't another reason -- or perhaps, several reasons -- why Joan was booted by that newspaper.

You did research it, right? I mean, you are thinking about this stuff, right? You're not just knee-jerk reacting out of pre-existing prejudices.