Shopping Tours at Mala Wharf Point of Contention | News, Sports, Jobs

Kayaks rest along the shore and boats enter and exit the harbor around Mala Wharf and Ramp on October 8. Commercial activity at the wharf has become a point of contention among residents who say tour operators and their customers are pushing the community out. places they usually go to fish, dive and surf. Tour operators say they have tried to be good neighbors and the state should consider expanding parking nearby. Maui News / MATTHEW THAYER photos

As a water veteran with deep roots in Lahaina, Archie Kalepa has long watched the boat and snorkeling tours at Mala Wharf grow steadily.

“To see it invaded by commercial activity hinders the use of the community”, Kalepa said. “And I think we can come up with conditions or even a solution.”

Kalepa and other West Maui residents say the increase in visits to Mala Wharf has crowded out residents from places they go fishing and diving, left them with few parking options and created hazards in the water for fishermen and other boaters.

“Excessive commercial activity at Mala Wharf is negatively impacting both the traditional and customary protected practices of native Hawaiians and the general public, our community, to access and use this area, in addition to environmental impacts as well. “, Kai Nishiki, a resident of Lahaina, told the State Land and Natural Resources Council last week. “My Kanaka Maoli children and I frequently surf, fish, dive, go to the beach and do conservation work in this area.”

Nishiki, Kekai Keahi, Na Papa’i Wawae ‘Ulu’ula and Ka Malu O Kahalawai had requested the hearing of a disputed case on the renewal of the commercial use licenses of four tour operators – Extended Horizons, Kaanapali Beach Watercraft Rentals, Noio Charters and Pacific Jet Sports.

Boats use the Mala Wharf and Ramp on October 8.

The council denied the request last week.

“I hope our staff at DOBOR (Division of Boating and Ocean Recreation) will continue to work on community issues at Mala Wharf, but they are not entitled to a contested case hearing,” said Christopher Yuen, board member.

DOBOR administrator Ed Underwood said the state had not noticed an increase in business activity at Mala Wharf.

“There was no commercial activity during the pandemic and now commercial activity has resumed”, he said by email on Tuesday.

Underwood added that parking at Mala is open to everyone on a first come, first served basis.

“DOBOR has created additional parking and is actively working with commercial companies to park their vehicles and their customers’ vehicles off-site”, he said.

He explained that DOBOR moved the barriers along the roadway to allow for additional parking, although he was not sure how many additional vehicles could now be installed there as there are no stands. and vehicles park parallel to the road.

Keahi, who grew up learning to fish and dive in the area, said in written testimony that tour operators, their employees and customers take up all available parking.

“The cumulative effect of all these permitted commercial activities is flooding Mala Wharf and occupying all the stalls to the point where only your local recreational fisherman cannot get out and go fishing.” Keahi said. “She is fully occupied with commercial activities.

Nishiki said local fishermen couldn’t get on the ramp “Due to the monopolization of commercial trailers in the limited trailer parking area. “

“The parking situation is out of control and makes it almost impossible for locals to even find a stall due to all the tourists and business employees flooding the area.” Nishiki said. “Huge groups of tourists dropped off by boats to snorkel at Mala Wharf frequently drift into the boat entry / exit area, making it very dangerous for everyone.”

In 2014, DOBOR set a limit of 15 permits for Mala Wharf, but since there were 16 operators at the time, state officials were granted vested interests in the 16th permit and will let the number drop to 15 per attrition, Underwood explained.

Erik Stein, owner of Extended Horizons, said he has been a member of the Lahaina community for 40 years and operated out of Mala Wharf for most of that time.

“We operate five days a week, sometimes a Saturday, but most of the time we stay away from Mala on weekends out of deference to the local community because there is a lot of activity there and it is overcrowded” he told the board last week.

Extended Horizons employs eight people and makes one trip per day with up to 11 people under COVID-19 capacity restrictions. Stein said its employees do not park at Mala Wharf, although the company has a truck and trailer and meets its customers at the wharf, as it has for decades. He explained that part of the crowds in Mala are due in part to the fact that the travel agencies were kicked out of Kaanapali and ended up in Mala.

“The things they say about us not being good stewards or good neighbors and causing trouble are just not accurate.” Stein said. “We have a very small footprint. We go in and out once a day. We are respectful. We are good neighbors.

Theo King of Pacific Jet Sports and Kaanapali Beach Watercraft Rentals told the board that “limiting commercial customers’ access to parking in the neighborhood is not the solution”, but rather to expand parking options, perhaps on one of the area’s unused vacant lots.

“The petitioners say they cannot use the Mala boat launch to send their boats out for traditional and customary fishing, canoeing and organizing gatherings near the shore,” King told the council so in written testimony. “I can say with certainty that I have seen many people use the ramp on a daily basis for all kinds of water and ocean activities. No one was unable to use the Mala ramp.

Steven Lawless, owner of Noio Charters, said that “We see ourselves as stewards of the ocean”, and for the company to assist with search and rescue operations, report entangled or injured marine life, remove debris when possible, and join in with Mala clean-up events. Like Stein, Lawless said some of the operators around Mala came from elsewhere, including Lahaina Port, Kaanapali Beach and Maalaea.

“We recognize that several truck / trailer parking spaces are now used by Ka’anapali Beach CUPs (Commercial Use Permits) which were not previously used,” Lawless wrote to the board. “The parking issues could be improved by allowing parking in the dirt lot on the north side of the county property, while re-allowing parking in the dirt lot behind the bathrooms once the project is completed. Lahaina port completed. “

Past cases – such as the time DOBOR attempted to ban commercial vessels on the ocean waters of the Hanalei River or Hanalei Bay in an attempt to control a proliferation of tourism, a decision later deemed unconstitutional – show than “Land-based activities, such as overcrowded parking lots, cannot be dealt with by regulating ocean activities”, Underwood wrote in a report to the board.

However, there are other solutions. Underwood noted that a Mala task force is being formed to address community concerns and that DOBOR has spoken with commercial licensees to ask their customers not to park at the facility. The state also plans to remind operators that there is a 30-minute time limit for using the loading dock and that business activities such as signing contracts by customers and following safety guidelines must take place. Offsite.

“DOBOR may also make this a condition of the permit and take administrative enforcement measures if necessary to ensure compliance”, said Underwood.

Kalepa told the board that some tour operators “Good stewards”, pointing out that a parasailing company brings its boats and trailers back to its place of operation.

“In my mind, it shows that they are part of this community because they see the impacts it has on this area and they are doing their part”, Kalepa said. “I think that’s what we need to do.”

Kalepa said her priority is “That the community is not left out. “

“And this is currently what is happening”, he said.

* Colleen Uechi can be contacted at [email protected]

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