Kaniloa Kamaunu lives in Waihee, just down the road from Swinging Bridges, one of the most famous — and controversial — hiking spots on the island. He says his family has lived there for generations, and that he grew up trekking up the mountain from his home to the watershed where they get their water. But to make that walk, Kamaunu (and anyone else who wants to go to Swinging Bridges) must pass through land owned by John Varel’s Waihe`e Valley Plantation and Wailuku Water Co.
For years now, access to the bridges has been restricted. Wailuku Water Co. insists that anyone who wants access ask them in writing, and Varel put up his own toll booth (the fee is $6/person) and asks that everyone sign a liability waver (click here for a 2006 Honolulu Advertiser story on the complex politics involving Swinging Bridges access).
Tired of what he says calls “harassment” from the toll booth attendants, as well as a recent barricade that Wailuku Water Co. recently put in, closing off all access to Swinging Bridges, Kamaunu says he’s marching his family up the road at 9am on Saturday, Sept. 3.
“I grew up here,” Kamaunu said. “I’ve walked up that road many years. That was my playground. Now this person (Varel) wants to discourage our passage through.”
Kamaunu said about 50 people have told him they might march with him, though he has no idea how many people will show. He says the Maui Police Department has told him that they will arrest anyone who tries to move through the gate at Swinging Bridges. He also insists that he does not want violence.
“There are kupunas and children coming,” he said. “I’ve asked everyone to be pono. We don’t want people to come there angry. We want to show our dissatisfaction. We want to establish that we have rights. We want a peaceful march. We don’t want anyone to get hurt.”
Kamaunu said that he’s told people to arrive at the ballpark in Waihe`e at 8am for a meeting to go over ground rules, and then they will proceed up the road at 9am.
As far as the Maui Police Department is concerned, Chief Gary A. Yabuta said he knew nothing of any march in Waihe`e. “Advise that we are not aware of any acts of upcoming civil disobedience,” Yabuta emailed on Sept. 2. “We suggest you investigate your own source of where you received your information.”
Neither Varel nor Wailuku Water Co. President Avery Chumbley returned MauiTime‘s phone call for comment by press time.