It was so nice to wake to the sound of much-needed rain today. And so nice yesterday to see folks out picking flowers for graduation lei and parties, and to pass the bedsheets and other makeshift signs posted in high-visibility places and spray painted with congratulatory words to the class of 2012. Things like that set Kauai apart from other places.
I spent most of the day on the North Shore, where the weather was glorious and the trades were gusting and the sea was that amazing color of blue-green. Nearly as stunning was the intensity of tourism. I'm not kidding when I say the ratio of rental to local cars was easily 20-1. By 10 a.m., the overflow parking lot in Haena State Park was, well, overflowing and cars lined both sides of the road from Limahuli Garden to the end. It was hard to imagine how that many people could fit on Kee Beach, or envision the level of traffic on Hanakapiai Trail. I kept thinking, wow, the day is still young, and it's not even peak season.
I was also thinking of how the Hawaii Supreme Court said Ikaika Pratt couldn't exercise his traditional native rights to caretake Kalalau Valley because the state has to consider the greater good in regulating access. Problem is, the state doesn't regulate, and definitely not for the greater good. Just go to Haena State Park and you'll see it's effectively been handed over to the visitor industry.
Unfortunately, that's not the only example. A friend and I spent the better part of the day walking the spectacular shoreline between Hanalei Colony Resort and Cannons. As tour helicopters buzzed overhead and tour boats bounced along offshore, I documented one case after another of blatant, intentional plantings in front of oceanfront houses — most of them vacation rentals. In the process, great swaths of public beach have been privatized.
In one area, a public beach easement has been replaced with a wall, trash cans for the six adjacent vacation rentals and the increasingly common no trespassing, no parking, no more aloha signs.
As we passed house after house that sleeps 8 or 10 or 12 or 14, I thought, gee, add 'em all up and you've got a defacto 200-room hotel on one small stretch of beach — operating with none of the oversight and regulations that would govern such a facility.
We walked past attorney Terri Tico's oceanfront house, where some coconut palms were recently planted on the public beach, and I thought of her letter to the editor, in which she managed to plug her personal injury practice as heartily as the North Shore Path. She also falsely claimed that boondoggle project is an all-volunteer effort. Mmmm, except for coordinator Tommy Noyes and realtor/planner Ben Wellborn, who is being paid very well indeed with state Department of Health monies to come up with a “wtf?” plan — I mean “alternatives report” — that speaks of relocating taro loi in Hanalei and building cantilevers over streams alongside historic bridges.
“Why should the public be paying to develop paths on Princeville land?” asked my friend, a North Shore resident who noted that people who live up there don't want their communities connected, especially not to Princeville. Besides, she said, there is no community left in Hanalei. It's full-on a resort town now.
And as she pointed out, even this level of tourism isn't enough. The state and county want to keep building tourism and encourage more growth in the visitor industry, with no thought to the cumulative impact on resources, communities and the local lifestyle.
But more important, at least to the state, the high court has affirmed that cultural practitioners will not be allowed to camp in Kalalau without competing with tourists for the proper permits. In the weird, warped mind of the state, it's OK to let tourism run amok on the beaches and trails, skies and sea. But God forbid the kanaka should even intermittently occupy their own lands in an attempt to repair the damage, restore the sacred.