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More Enforcement Sought as Tourism Impacts Are Felt Along Hāna Highway

Tourists congestion along Hāna Highway June 10, 2021. PC: courtesy

Hundreds of Cars Per Day Along Hāna Hwy

Area lawmakers say more enforcement is needed to deter illegal parking on the Hāna Highway, as rural residents deal with an influx of visitors and limited resources.

Maui Councilmember Shane Sinenci, who’s district includes the East Maui community of Hāna said illegal parking along the scenic and winding road is the area’s No. 1 complaint regarding tourism impacts to the rural community.

“Our small rural town is at capacity. We don’t have enough public parking for the 400-600 cars per day. Our town center does not have sidewalks nor crosswalks so visitors walk in the road,” he said, noting that most food truck stops along the route lack adequate parking and bathroom facilities for their patrons.

Illegal parking along Hāna Highway June 2021. PC: courtesy

Surcharge Signs Installed, More Enforcement Sought

Earlier this month, the state Department of Transportation began installing “no parking” signs reflecting a $200 surcharge in addition to a $35 parking violation at several spots along the winding road into East Maui. 

Sign installation began June 10 at the Waikamoi Stream Bridge at Mile 10. Other locations identified for the increased fines are: Waikamoi Stream Bridge; Twin Falls; Bamboo Forest; Ching’s Pond; Waikani Bridge; Pua‘a Ka‘a Park; and Hanawī Bridge.

Sinenci said he believes the signs will serve as a deterrent to people who are illegally parking at scenic and popular stops along the Hāna Highway, but more needs to be done.

In addition to a surcharge and signage being installed at problem areas, Sinenci said the state Department of Transportation recommended hiring retired police to conduct patrols.

“MPD says that Hāna is fully staffed due to our population numbers; however, with the additional visitors along the East Maui coastline, we need additional manpower to patrol the 50 miles of roadway. My office is looking into ways to increase patrol personnel, either through a budget amendment or legislation,” Sinenci said in an email to Maui Now.

According to Sinenci, the surcharge idea already existed as HRS HB333, but it wasn’t being enforced.

“I currently serve on the Maui Metropolitan Planning Organization; however, my office has requested additional signage on the Hāna Highway for the last three years to address the illegal parking, identifying safe turnout areas, ‘no stopping’ signs along the dangerous cliffs (at Mile Marker 14-15), and to discourage visitors going on unsafe state lands,” said Sinenci.

Senator Lynn DeCoite who also represents the district at the state Legislature said, “The Department of Transportation has done their part in putting up signs, now with fees. These fees incurred could help to pay for enforcement, really needs to be put back where the county sees it reasonable to put more funding behind the officers… to enforce and ticket these people,” who are parking illegally. 

“There should be more enforcement, and enforcement comes on the county side of it. So I would like to encourage that. I’d also like to encourage the the funding be made available for the Maui Wayfinding system so that it can help alleviate the traffic–not just for the residents, but for the tourists that are coming in there. As you know tourism is a big issue for us, and for our budget for the state of Hawaiʻi. But the funding needs to be put in place so that we can help to alleviate that traffic,” she said. 

Waiʻānapanapa. Photo by Wendy Osher.

Reservations at Waiʻānapanapa Result in Unintended Impacts to Other Areas

During the pandemic, lawmakers re-evaluated tourism impacts and explored ideas surrounding traffic management in East Maui. Out of this discussion, a reservation system was born that is now in place at Waiʻānapanapa State Park, which had seen increased crowding and commercial tours. As of March 1, parking and entry fees were implemented for out-of-state visitors and commercial vehicles, requiring visitors to select a time slot, to spread out visitation across the day.

“The reservation system at Waiʻānapanapa was modeled after Kauaʻi’s Hāʻena Point where they experienced 600 cars driving to a dead-end spot and causing gridlock. The system is working however the unintended consequence is that visitors who did not make a reservation, are being turned away and are now frequenting other dangerous spots like Kaihalulu Beach and Waioka Pond,” said Sinenci.

He said he hopes the National Parks Service at Kīpahulu will also adopt a reservation system similar to their Sunrise system already in place at the Summit of Haleakalā.

Maui’s Daily Passenger Count Rebounding

While businesses continue to recover from pandemic impacts, summer travel is starting to see a return to pre-pandemic levels, with an average of 7,431 passengers arriving on Maui daily so far this month. Data from the state Department of Business Economic Development and Tourism shows that the passenger count on Maui in June (through June 21), is down just -1.6% from two years ago, but is up +8.7% from three years ago at this time.

DBEDT released its second quarter 2021 Statistical and Economic Report, revising its economic growth projection for 2021 to 3.5%, up from the 2.7% projected in February this year.

“We were told that the visitor industry had suffered greatly due to the pandemic and that it would take several years for it to bounce back (industry folks); that has not happened. Since 80% of the globe is still not open or still experiencing COVID-19 clusters, visitors see Hawaiʻi as a safe option to visit at this time,” said Sinenci.

East Maui Has County’s Highest Vaccination Rate

Earlier on in the pandemic, the Hāna Highway was closed to non-residential traffic from April to mid-July 2020, to provide an added layer of protection to the isolated community which has limited healthcare resources. State Transportation crews used the opportunity to complete critical road improvements.

As state health officials continue to a goal of getting a 70% statewide vaccination rate, East Maui has already exceeded that benchmark. According to data compiled by the state Department of Health, East Maui currently has the county’s highest vaccination rate of 70.1%+.

“We continue to encourage our East Maui residents to get vaccinated despite some hesitancy. Our main goal is to protect our kupuna, who also live in multi-generational households with their children, grandchildren and great grandchildren,” said Sinenci. With a more contagious variant of the virus detected, Sinenci said he hopes efforts continue toward herd immunity.

Original source: https://mauinow.com/2021/06/23/more-enforcement-sought-as-tourism-impacts-are-felt-along-hana-highway/

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