Traveling Maui’s badly designed roads in anything other than a car can be a life-threatening excursion. Steel hulks speed by you as you travel in narrow or non-existent bike/pedestrian lanes. Cyclists and pedestrians often become the unintentional targets of careless drivers. If you’re lucky to live after a 3,000-pound machine slams into you, dragging and ripping your flesh along the filthy asphalt—as one did to me recently—you’ll wonder if you’ll ever ride or walk the roads again.
This is especially true in South Maui. Kihei is an example of how the auto-centric land-use laws and policies of Maui’s Public Works department require residents to be defensive and vigilant as they dodge cars.
“It’s been a struggle to get Public Works to prioritize the needs of Maui’s pedestrians over the need to just built more roads for cars,” said Greenway Maui’s President Joe Bertram III.
For the past 21 years, South Maui residents have asked Public Works to make Kihei a pedestrian-oriented community. For the past 20 years, Kihei residents’ requests have fallen on deaf ears.
The Kihei community has wanted a continuous pedestrian-safe greenway since adopting the Kihei-Makena Community plan in the 1980s. In 1998 the community gathered at the Kihei 2000 workshop to ask again for a greenway. Residents spent hours mapping the safe pedestrian corridor for South Maui residents and visitors.
This community effort resulted in an amendment to the Kihei-Makena Community Plan to include the greenway. The Maui County Council passed the greenway amendment and sent the map to the reviewing agencies for approval. But when the map returned from Public Works, a critical section of the greenway from Maui Hill to Kilohana was gone.
County engineers said they pulled that section because of language in the Kihei-Makena Community Plan. According to the plan, they had to “Preserve and enhance the identity of Kihei’s neighborhoods by designing the North-South collector road in discontinuous segments.”
But auto-focused Public Works also ignored the next sentence, which asked them to “Work with landowners, neighborhoods, and community groups to plan and implement an adjacent but separate trail/greenway/bikepath to provide non-motorized public access along the full length of the road reserve.”
While a community plan has the force and effect of law, it’s forgotten and ignored unless residents are vocal in supporting it. This is the case in Kihei where developers are carving in and cutting out this continuous greenway.
Today, homes and condos are quietly rising on critical pieces of the proposed trial. Once these sections are covered over, the opportunity to create this corridor will be lost and Kihei residents can kiss their greenway goodbye.
“We are about to lose critical connections of the Southern portion of the greenway from Kanani Street to Walaka and Ponana Street,” said Bertram. He added that he’s asked for help from Mayor Alan Arakawa. According to one of the mayor’s aides, there still may be hope.
“The portion of the right-of-way between Auhana and Kilohana had almost slipped away from us,” said Dave DeLeon, Arakawa’s executive assistant. “Thanks to the diligence of Joe Bertram, the Arakawa Administration is focused on saving it.”
DeLeon said there are five different problem areas from Auhana and Kilohana. He says they will require spending serious money to buy out at least one house and possibly condemning an easement across a condo parking lot.
“If this is going to happen, the community of Kihei is going to have to step forward and let itself be heard, loud and clear, that this is a priority for you and that you will not take ‘no’ for an answer,” DeLeon said. “It’s going to take that type of dedicated advocacy to save the remaining right-of-way. It is going to be up to Kihei.”
“Sending letters of support to the mayor is best,” said Bertram. “Calls and emails work, too. If you care about keeping South Maui’s dream of providing the community with a safe, car-free corridor for our children, our Kupuna and our bikers, joggers and walkers, we must act now, or it will be eliminated forever.”