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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Saturday, February 4, 2006

Beach reclaimed from homeless

By Christie Wilson
Advertiser Neighbor Island Editor

Akua Po, left, and Makana Ho'opai helped pile up trash yesterday as the Hawaiian Canoe Club cleared illegal campsites on land the club leases near Kahului Harbor, Maui.

CHRISTIE WILSON | The Honolulu Advertiser

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KAHULUI, Maui After finding used syringes in the sand and losing thousands of dollars in equipment to thieves, Hawaiian Canoe Club members decided it was time to clear out makeshift shelters from a section of shoreline at Kahului Harbor.

About 40 club members and a half-dozen police officers were present Thursday when a handful of homeless campers were evicted from land the club leases at Hoaloha Park from Alexander & Baldwin.

Paddlers returned yesterday to clean up rubbish and will cut back the naupaka thickets that provided cover for the campers.

"This is not a witch hunt to make anybody feel low. We are reclaiming our beach and making it safe for our keiki to run up and down the beach and on the grass and not worry about getting hurt," said Hawaiian Canoe Club member Iokepa Nae'ole.

The situation is an offshoot of a problem involving a larger encampment of between 100 and 200 homeless people that has been allowed to grow at the Kahului Harbor breakwater. Maui Mayor Alan Arakawa has said there's no point in moving them along because they'll just set up camp elsewhere.

Arakawa said letting the homeless people stay at the centrally located breakwater makes it easier for them to get access to schools, jobs, clinics and other services.

Maui's lack of affordable housing is keeping some from finding traditional shelter, and the county has been working to relocate those who are willing. But officials who work with agencies that deal with the homeless say many at the harbor are not interested in participating in assistance programs.

Hawaiian Canoe Club executive director Mary Akiona said four syringes and numerous empty plastic drug packets have been found on the property or on the beach, and that at least $5,000 in tools and kitchen equipment have been stolen during break-ins.

In addition to offering a summer paddling program, the five-time state champion canoe club hosts paddling teams from King Kekaulike High School and Seabury Hall, a hula halau, and programs that attract hundreds of youngsters. Next door is Na Kai 'Ewalu Canoe Club, whose site is also used by Kamehameha Schools-Maui.

"We have nothing against the homeless, but we've worked all these years to create a safe Hawaiian environment for our kids," said Paul "Kauhane" Lu'uwai, a coach with Hawaiian Canoe Club and King Kekaulike.

Paddler Katie McDougall, 16, helped haul rubbish from the campsites to a large trash bin yesterday. "It's very uncomfortable when you see beer bottles and trash when you're running on the beach, and the fact they found needles is kind of scary," she said.

Teenagers yesterday removed plastic crates, tarps, broken bicycle frames, lumber and even drug paraphernalia for smoking crystal methamphetamine.

Akiona said officials with the two canoe clubs hope to meet with managers of the Maui Beach, Maui Palms and Maui Seaside hotels that share the harbor shoreline about conducting regular beach cleanups and vegetation control.

Michelle Awong, front desk manager at the Maui Seaside Hotel, which is adjacent to Hoaloha Park, said the hotel routinely trims the naupaka bushes on its property and that security patrols check the area at night.

"During the day it's pretty noticeable. At night you can't see them," she said.

Reach Christie Wilson at cwilson@honoluluadvertiser.com.