A popular Maui beach is the subject of a turf war between paddlers, businesses

A popular Maui beach is the subject of a turf war between paddlers, businesses
Hanakao'o Beach is popular among paddlers and businesses. Now a turf war is brewing. (Source: Super Beaches Hawaii)

MAUI, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) -A turf war over a West Maui beach made its way to the Maui County Council Tuesday afternoon.

A county council committee considered a measure that would ban commercial activities at Lahaina’s Hanakao’o Beach Park, otherwise known as Canoe Beach.

Paddlers say businesses keep forcing them out of other beaches and they’re fed up. But the business owners argue the paddlers are the ones forcing them out.

“We move so many times because a hotel builds up, get kicked off that beach, get another hotel build up, kick off that beach. Canoe Beach is the last resort,” supporter Steve Keahi testified.

“There’s a small number of individuals who have been harassing commercial operators and their guests. Police were called several times as these people threatened physical harm, many of the operators have chosen to go elsewhere to avoid bullying and this anti-commercial sentiment is a reflection of a larger problem,” opponent Tonie Marie Davis, Executive Director of the Activities & Attractions Association of Hawaii said.

The president of Lahaina Divers Inc. testified against the measure offering an alternative idea.

“By extending the waterways, I think we can get a better buffer between boating activities," said Greg Howeth. “I would ask that you think about what it might mean to put some of these businesses out of business when you’re talking about activities that don’t just serve visitors but also serve our Kamaaina.”

Meanwhile, beachgoers and members of canoe clubs feel it’s necessary to keep some places untouched by the grip of business for future generations.

“This is the last place we have. All we’re asking is to keep what we have left. We not asking for anything more,” Nori Tihada, Napili Canoe Club Coach, said.

“25 miles of west side beach. We asking for 100 yards. They get the best. They get all the best beaches, and that’s not enough?” said supporter Kekahi Keahi.

Under the proposal, businesses with permits will be allowed to continue operating at the beach, until permits expire on June 30.

The measure is advancing through the county.

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