By Timothy Hurley
Advertiser Maui Bureau
WAILUKU, Maui Maui County announced yesterday it would be temporarily closing the Kanaha Beach Park campgrounds Feb. 9 because of unsanitary conditions created by a homeless population, a move that will force as many as 70 people to relocate.
Maui Mayor James "Kimo Apana said the state Health Department recommended closing the park for two months after inspectors found excessive animal waste, rubbish and dirty restrooms.
Apana said the county plans to level the campground area, clean the restrooms and conduct "needed maintenance.
Before the grounds are reopened, he said, the area will be sanitized and certified by the state as being free from health risks.
People camping at the park are being notified about the closure this week and offered information about what social services are available to them. Officials with the Salvation Army and Ka Hale A Ke Ola Resource Center will be on hand to offer assistance in finding housing, food, medical care and basic needs.
"Unfortunately, theres not a lot we can do. There arent a lot of places for them to go, said Tom Taylor, corps officer of the Kahului Salvation Army Corps.
Charlie Ridings, executive director of Ka Hale A Ke Ola, said there wasnt any other option for the county, considering the conditions, which he described as terrible. This will be the fourth time in the last decade the county has cleared the Kanaha camp of its homeless population, he said.
Taylor, who often preaches to the Kanaha homeless during Sunday visits, said he would expect most of the population to simply relocate to another area. He estimated there are three or four such homeless camps on Maui, many of them out of sight of most residents.
"We realize that Maui County has a homeless problem and it is not limited to Kanaha Beach Park, the mayor said in a statement issued yesterday.
In his address to the state Legislature this week, Apana asked for help in dealing with the issue.
A tight housing market threatens to make the Maui homeless situation worse. But Apana said the proposed $3.5 million West Maui Homeless Center in Lahaina should help some and he is talking with the Kahului Salvation Army about opening an "eats and sheets" center to address temporary homelessness in Central Maui.
At Kanaha, a number of dogs and ducks have been living with the families, according to county officials who have been monitoring the situation since September.
In addition, the number of crimes at the park have escalated, with thefts, disorderly conduct and sexual assaults reported. County officials say theyve received complaints about health conditions and safety issues at Kanaha Beach, including stories of park users being accosted by campers.
Before the campground is reopened, the county will add picnic tables and barbecues to the area, Apana said.
[back to top]