The conceptual plan for the $30 million Sand Island Ocean Recreation Park being proposed by the Department of Land & Natural Resources was the focus of a recent community meeting facilitated by State Senator Suzanne Chun Oakland.
Cy Kalama of Aloha Canoe club stands in the golden sunlight of dusk gazing at the tiny island of Mokauea. “There it is. Thereʻs our baby. I can hear her screaming, sheʻs calling for help. We have a responsibility here.”
Mokauea Island lies in the middle of the recently proposed Sand Island Ocean Recreation Park. The Stateʻs plan includes building more bathrooms, more parking, canoe pavilions, a marina, and overall better ocean access for the public.
“I hope that we can actually have a multitude of different recreational activities that all of our families can enjoy from little ones to our kupuna.”
State Senator Suzanne Chun Oakland organized this meeting of community groups to hear feedback and start a discussion surrounding the proposed plan.
“We paddle here with other clubs, with fishermen, with jet skiers, beach goers, BMX riders and we all make it work.”
What doesnʻt work for most here at the meeting is the proposed marina with its 400-500 slips.
“It wouldnʻt be good to have boats parked in here, it will continue to pollute this area, and it will definitely congest this area,” says Chauncey Pang of ʻŌlelo O Ke Ola Canoe Club.
“This channel is just not large enough to have 400 slips and boats” argues Healani Canoe Clubʻs Pua Paiaina.
“Our main concern is safety. Especially for our keiki. Right now we can have a 10 year old steering up and down and we will be able to watch them. We can run up and down the shoreline with them. Weʻre right there. Theyʻre safe enough, they feel comfortable, and they donʻt have to deal with this heavy traffic that will come into play if we have this development.”
President of the Oʻahu Hawaiian Canoe Racing Association (OHCRA), Luana Froiseth, agrees.
“Having a marina in this area at this time isnʻt really what we would like to see. We would like the waterfront to be developed in to something more for canoe paddling that canoe paddlers in this area can call their home.”
A paddler here since 1974 with Kahana Canoe Club, Uncle Gilbert Silva, currently of Keahiakahoe Canoe Club, breaks it down.
“We are one family, we support what our State like, but to a limit, I mean, we cannot have water crafts going back and forth while we paddling canoes, so the safety issue is a big issue.”
Another issue that has yet to be addressed is how the proposed plan will affect Mokauea Island, home to one of the last traditional fishing villages left in all of Hawaiʻi.
Following the evictions of 14 Mokauea familes in 1975, the State Historic Preservation Division declared Mokauea “an area of important historical concern.”
Historian and Project Manager for Mālama Mokauea, Kehaulani Kupihea, brings things up to date. “Right now the most important thing is to educate the community and really get the idea that this place was meant to be preserved and protected.”
In 1839 King Kamehameha III Kauikeaouli designated this area his as sacred fishing grounds.
“Between here and Puʻuloa there were over 40 fishponds, Oʻahu had the most fishponds.”
Today only one of those fishponds remains. Kehaulani works with volunteers restoring Mokauea to become self-sufficient once again. And she is showing no signs of stopping.
“Iʻm definitely being driven by my kupuna. My family is actually from Mokauea and Kahakaʻaulana from before the Mahele, mine and my husbandʻs, so, itʻs just really a kuleana”
A responsibility adopted by those who have made this area their home in more recent times.
“I donʻt know if a marina is actually appropriate for this area knowing the history, the cultural significance of this area. So I hope that we can actually maintain things without having to implement something like that” says Sen. Suzanne Chun Oakland.
OHCRA President Luana Froiseth adds “Weʻre hoping that with the groups in this area that we can come to a little understanding or what works for canoe paddling as well as the marina as well as for everybody else that wants to use this area.”
Konohiki Gilbert Silva summed up the tone of the day. “I think today everybody seen, we all can work together as one. You know, very important.”
As the Stateʻs plans for the Sand Island Ocean Recreation Park move forward, those who love and care for Mokauea like Cy Kalama have a simple request:
“To embrace her, thatʻs what I want us to do. Embrace her.”
Stay tuned to ʻŌiwi TV for updates and related stories.