Recent letters to the editor published in the Honolulu Star-Advertiser makes me realize that people are not getting an accurate picture of the state’s well-articulated conceptual plans to restore and protect Hawai‘i’s largest remaining freshwater marsh complex, which sits right in the heart of Kailua. Cheryl McIlroy wrote in “Plan for marsh widely opposed” (Star-Advertiser, June 11, 2014) that DLNR officials are “bent on destroying a beautiful, protected and pristine marsh and filling it with buildings, parking lots and campsites.” Nothing could be further from the truth. Had Ms. McIlroy read the draft Kawainui-Hamakua Complex Master Plan more carefully, she would have learned the following:
- Of the 986 acres covered by the draft plan, only 10 acres—1% of the total—around the perimeter of the marshes would contain a small and well-conceived set of cultural and environmental centers. When our communities have places for Hawaiian culture to thrive, we are all better off. When our children have opportunities to engage in stewardship and place-based learning at the edge of these unique marshes, they are far more likely to protect them and their watersheds as adults. Those who call this plan “a destruction of the marsh” clearly do not understand the plan. Ill-informed opposition can only lead to unintended consequences (such as disrespect for the esteemed cultural leaders who have created a powerful vision for these centers) that most residents would likely deplore.
- Page 4-22 of the draft plan notes that commercial use of both marshes is limited to 100 persons per day. Commercial visits are not allowed without a permit, thanks to the existing State Wildlife Sanctuary designation for both the Kawainui and Hamakua marshes. No one need worry about a conspiracy to inundate the marshes with tourists; it does not exist. However, DLNR will need extra funds from the Legislature to ensure that it can enforce the law effectively.
- At present, the marshes are far from pristine; instead, they suffer from poor water quality and invasive plant and animal species that threaten the habitat of birds, fish, and grasses endemic to Hawai‘i. The draft plan rightly makes wetland restoration its top priority, but more details on how this priority will be implemented are needed. This is essential. If we don’t act soon, the marshes will die. Leaving sick marshes alone does not heal their sickness.
There is certainly work ahead to refine this plan and comment on the EIS that will follow. In particular, we must ensure that DLNR and a set of educational and cultural organizations have the capacity and support to implement it well. The Harold K.L. Castle Foundation stands ready with modest grant funding to help build that capacity, but the bulk of the resources must come from other community organizations, the Legislature, and the federal government. In the meantime, let us conduct a better-informed and civil discussion as we work together to restore and protect this beautiful natural resource. Download the draft plan at http://www.hhf.com/kawainui/index.html.