We love to visit Maui. Just as we love Oregon, our home. So it's sad to see overdevelopment trashing the livability of both beautiful places.
Measure 37, which seriously watered down Oregon's land use laws, is causing subdivisions to sprout on irreplaceable farm and forest land. I don't know what Maui's problem is--basic greed and complacency, I suppose.
Maybe when you live here, it's like the old "boiling a frog alive" metaphor. Development occurs so slowly and steadily, you get used to it, not noticing how hot the overdevelopment water is becoming.
My wife and I notice, since we only come here for a short time once a year. And at least some locals do. I read a letter to the editor in the Maui News a few days ago. The guy had counted the number of large construction cranes between Lahaina and Kapalua.
It was about a dozen, I recall. Here's a couple of them, towering over the few palm trees that remain at Kapalua Bay.
We're staying at the nearby Napili Kai Beach Resort. Sitting on Napili Beach you can hear the incessant noise of construction equipment back-up beeps coming from Kapalua.
This couple was getting married on the Kapalua Bay beach when I walked by. The minister's conch shell and singing was beautifully Hawaiian. The back-up beeps that marred the ceremony weren't.
That's how Maui is becoming: an increasingly uncomfortable blend of natural beauty and manmade ugliness.
A parking lot at the Kapalua shopping area used to be shaded by these magnificent trees, whose name I don't know. This tree is near where we park at Napili Kai. The front desk person didn't know the name of the tree either.
Whatever kind of tree it is, the developers at Kapalua chopped the tops of them off. Sad sight. Maybe they'll survive. But not as they were. Which pretty much sums up Maui.
In three lines this web page did its own summing up of the island:
Pros: "There's something for everyone on Beautiful Maui"
Cons: "Growing too fast."
In A Nutshell: "Get there before the developers do any more damage."
What's most striking is the growing gap between the wealthy folks who buy the oceanfront developments, and the regular folk who already live here.
Again, a lot like Oregon, where rich out-of-staters drive up the price of properties in desirable places like Bend and Ashland, making it tough for locals to afford a home.
The Kapalua construction is discreetly walled off from the view of drivers-by. This poster shows who will be living here, now that the trees have been cut down and much of the oceanfront condo'ed over. She doesn't look like a native Hawaiian, does she?
I feel entitled today to criticize the crushing of Maui's once pristine environment. A plastic bag blew off the beach this morning while we were ensconced on our mats.
It dropped into the ocean. Laurel said, "Somebody needs to get it." I said, "It looks like that man is." But he wasn't. He made a few desultory strokes toward it, but it already was being blown by the wind out to sea.
"A sea turtle could eat it!" Laurel exclaimed. "I don't have my fins, or I'd retrieve it." "I'll do it," I told her confidently. I was about ready to go for my daily 20-30 minute swim back and forth across Napili Bay anyway.
What I didn't realize, though, was that swimming straight out past the reef (finless) against some fairly large waves was a lot tougher than swimming sideways across the bay. Plus, the bag kept being blown further out.
I began to have my doubts that I'd ever reach it. But my admiration for the Wonder Pets helped keep me going. I kept hearing their voices in my head: "There's an animal in distress…We've got to help it!...This is serious."
I reached the plastic bag. Stuck it in my swimming trunks. Used some large waves to propel me back toward shore. A minor environmental crisis averted.
Hopefully there are lots of people who live on Maui who're willing to similarly expend some energy saving the livability of their island. Don't take it for granted, my friends.
We're seeing Oregon become a different (and worse) place because of overdevelopment. Learn from our bad example. Don't let it happen here anymore than it already has.