By Timothy Hurley
Advertiser Maui Bureau
WAILUKU, Maui Calling the environment critical to both Maui Countys economy and the well-being of its citizens, Mayor James "Kimo Apana yesterday announced a $1 million donation to a new organization that aims to preserve coastal open space and beach access.
Apana said he wants the county contribution to be used by the Maui Coastal Preservation Trust as seed money to help attract additional money for land acquisition.
"The preservation of open space benefits everyone, Apana said in his annual State of the County address in the chambers of the Maui County Council.
"It is time to put aside the false arguments of economic growth vs. the economy. In truth, our environment is critical to our economy, our health and to the well-being of all citizens.
Apana said he hopes to partner with the Maui Coastal Preservation Trust to preserve beaches and other land areas.
Trust president Tom Pierce said he was ecstatic at the mayors announcement.
"Thats fantastic, said Pierce, a Wailuku attorney. "Were very interested in working with the county. Were hoping this is the beginning of something that will get only bigger and greater as the years go forward.
The land trust was formed recently by a group of residents after more than six months of planning, and with the help of grants from the Trust for Public Lands and the Environmental Support Center.
The idea emerged after a community campaign to save Palauea Beach from luxury home development, and after Maui County could buy only two of nine large lots fronting the beach near the Wailea resort. Also, several other oceanfront lands are being considered for, or are already earmarked for, development.
A survey last summer by the Trust for Public Land found that nearly 80 percent of Mauis residents want more county spending on land, air and water protection, and most of those wanted it increased substantially.
Apana said preserving the environment would be among his administrations top priorities in the coming year.
He said he plans to work with the Paia and Haiku communities to prepare amendments to the areas Community Plan to ensure continuous open space along the coastline from Kuau to Haiku. He described the area as "Mauis Big Sur, a reference to the Northern California coastal region.
The county will also work with the state Department of Land and Natural Resources to preserve lands within its control along "this magnificent ocean view corridor, he said.
In addition, Apana said the county would work to restore beaches affected by severe erosion. A county program to restore and nourish the eroded beach at Halama Street in Kihei has been a success, using sand dredged at a state harbor, he said.
"We now know that beach nourishment is the most cost-effective way to expand our beaches, the mayor said.
Scientists estimate 30 percent of Mauis shoreline has experienced beach loss or significant narrowing.
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