Maunawili residents believe their experience will be repeated at Kawainui Marsh

Published On: Jul 15 2014 06:39:26 PM HST
Updated On: Jul 15 2014 11:52:07 PM HST

With about 5 million people visiting Oahu every year, just about every nook and cranny of the island is being explored. But when the great outdoors clashes with residential neighborhoods, there's bound to be disagreement. KITV4's Andrew Pereira shows us why some Maunawili residents are concerned about plans to expand access to Kawainui Marsh.

Maunawili, Hawaii -

With 5.1 million tourists visiting Oahu last year, just about every nook and cranny of the island is being explored. But when the great outdoors clashes with residential neighborhoods, there's bound to be disagreement.

Click here to watch Andrew Pereira's report.

Residents who live near Maunawili Falls in Kailua say there once peaceful neighborhood has been overrun by tourists, and the impacts have diminished their quality of life.

"Especially in the last six (or) seven years, we've just seen this escalation of people coming to the trail," said Maunawili resident Chris Nakamatsu. "A lot of it is just publicity on the internet."

Homeowners who live near the entrance of the popular trail have a long list of complaints, which includes illegal parking, trespassers at all times of the day and night and mounds of trash – mostly muddy shoes and clothes that are left behind from the muddy path. Some Maunawili residents even paid for two security cameras at the intersection of Aloha Oe Drive and Maunawili Road to deter vehicle break-ins.

"The peace, the quiet and the tranquility of the neighborhood, is gone," said Claire Ganiko, who has lived in Mauanwili the past 40 years. "If the trail were managed, then we wouldn't have this overflow.

Maunawili Falls Trail is part of the state's Na Ala Hele Trail and Access program that oversees 122 trails across the state. The program splits a budget of $1.2 million with the Department of Land and Natural Resource's Division of Forestry and Wildlife. But according to Na Ala Hele statewide program manager Nelson Ayers, 50 to 60 percent of the budget goes toward salaries. That leaves only a few thousand dollars for the maintenance and upkeep of each trail, 43 of them on Oahu.

"They put the trail in place, but they don't have the resources to manage it," said Suzi Dominy, another Maunwili resident frustrated by the lack of oversight. "I don't think it's a case of lack of will, I just think they don't have the resources."

Soon, the limited resources that are available to DLNR could be stretched even further as the state looks to increase access to Kawainui Marsh, just a short distance from Maunawili Falls Trail. Residents who have witnessed the popularity of the trail explode in recent years fear the same issues of littering and overuse could plague the 986 acre state wildlife sanctuary.

"The same people are going to manage the marsh as are responsible for managing this trail, and this trail is just a small microcosm of what the marsh is in for," said Nakamatsu.   

However, DLNR spokeswoman Deborah Ward said comparing the situation at Maunawili Falls Trail to the proposed Kawainui-Hamakua Complex Master Plan is unfair, since one is conservation wetland and the other is a recreational trail. Under DLNR's proposal, Kawainui Marsh would see expanded foot trails, boardwalks and at least three public parking lots.

"Some people are saying we're trying to turn it into the Polynesian Cultural Center or Disneyland and that's just ridiculous," Dave Smith, Oahu branch manager for the Division of Forestry and Wildlife, said last month in an interview with KITV4.

The Kawainui-Hamakua Complex Master Plan must still undergo an environmental review before it can be approved by DLNR.

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