- Associated Press - Saturday, May 16, 2015

WAILUKU, Hawaii (AP) - The Kapalua Resort Association says extending its West Maui coastal trail will be a boon not only for resort guests but also for the public.

The association currently is seeking help from the county to fund part of an expansion project that would extend the existing trail - which snakes from Kapalua Bay Beach to D.T. Fleming Beach - farther north to Mokuleia Bay, The Maui News (https://bit.ly/1A0Kr0m ) reported Tuesday.

Paul Brown, executive director of the association, testified before the Maui County Council during a budget hearing at the Lahaina Civic Center on April 15. He asked council members to consider appropriating $150,000 toward the $250,000 cost to expand the trail.

“It (the trail) is not just for Kapalua, it’s a public benefit,” Brown said in a phone interview last week.

The coastal trail runs from Kapalua Bay Beach, across the sand dunes at Oneloa Bay, through The Ritz-Carlton, Kapalua to D.T. Fleming Beach Park. The association maintains more than 10 miles of trails in the area, including other trails along the Honolua Ridge and Maunalei Arboretum, the Mahana Ridge and the former Village Golf Course. The association offers free shuttle rides, open to the public, to the Maunalei Arboretum and Mahana Ridge trails.

Brown said that, though the Kapalua Resort Association pays for the maintenance of the trails, 95 percent of trail users are not guests at Kapalua resorts, often coming from Kaanapali, Wailea or other areas. He estimated that a couple hundred visitors and residents hike the trails every day.

“We’re willing to get it built and maintain it, but, knowing that it is a public benefit, we would like to get some help with it,” Brown said.

He added that landowner Maui Land & Pineapple Co. had begun planning the trail expansion nearly a decade ago, even securing special management area permits from the Maui Planning Commission, but the economic downturn in 2008 delayed the project. Brown said that the Kapalua resorts are not “in a financial position to spend that kind of money to make (the project) happen.”

No money for the trail project has been included in the draft budget proposal currently being considered by the Maui County Council.

Requests for comments from Council Member Elle Cochran, who holds the West Maui seat, were not returned.

Brown said that the association is exploring other possible funding sources from the state and other agencies, “but certainly some funding from the county would be helpful.”

Brown envisions the trail someday extending to Honolua Bay, an iconic surf spot and marine reserve. The state purchased 280 acres surrounding the bay from ML&P; for $19.5 million last year and is currently developing a management plan for the site.

Extending the trail would allow more space for people to exercise and explore, said conservationist Joseph Ward.

“Adding more to (the trail) would just give people additional miles of trail to walk. It’s a beautiful area, there’s no place like this part of Maui,” said Ward, who has been contracted to maintain the trails since 2012. “To look across the island and to see Molokai there and Lanai there, it makes you feel sheltered.”

Ward added that the area is a wonderland for avid birdwatchers because it is home to a large wedge-tailed shearwater, or ‘ua’u kani, colony at Hawea Point.

He said Hawea Point is home to more than a thousand nesting pairs of the indigenous birds.

“As long as people come down there and are respectful and don’t disturb the birds, it’s a great teaching tool,” Ward said, adding that most hikers do not venture off the trail and are respectful of posted signs. “There’s very few places where you can go and interact with native Hawaiian birds like that.”

The wedge-tailed shearwater is indigenous to Hawaii but not endangered like the Newell’s shearwater, or ‘a’o.

Ward said that the association should be commended for “stepping up” and maintaining the trails for the public benefit over the years.

Without the county’s help, though, Brown is skeptical that the additional trail will get built.

“I think the public benefit that could be gained from extension of the trail is certainly worth a pretty small investment,” Brown said.


Information from: The Maui News, https://www.mauinews.com

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