I awoke the other morning angry and thinking about the ongoing desecration occurring at the bottom of the hill. I’ve been driving by that place every day for the past 40 years. Since 1992 it has been a total wreck. The weeds grow tall, the buildings sit in what seems like a perpetual state of semi-demolishment, and every few years there are fires.
The owners of this property clearly don’t care about us. The former Coco Palms Resort is simply one line item among many on their balance sheet. Every few years the owners “sell” the place to developers who blow into town, tell us how much they love our island, promise to restore the place to its former glory, and then con the County of Kaua‘i into extending the “‘Iniki permits” and other development concessions.
It’s been 29 years now, and well past time we say “enough is enough” and demand that the desecration be stopped.
I use the word “desecration” intentionally. There are hundreds of iwi kupuna buried here.
There are ancient fishponds just waiting to be restored. The area abounds with native birds and plants. The history both ancient and modern deserves to be preserved.
The area upon which this former resort sits is literally the birthplace of Hawaiian royalty.
According to the book, “The Story of the Coco Palms Hotel,” by the late David P. Penhallow, the Coco Palms Resort is on an ancient site of Hawaiian royalty and hospitality situated at the mouth of the Wailua River, well-known to Hawaiians as a place of many legends and events of historical, cultural and religious significance. This is the landing place of the Kahiki voyagers, who came ashore here at Kaua‘i at about 500 AD.
Those kanaka who have occupied this property over the years should be applauded for their conviction. It’s the foreign “owner” and the wanna-be developers who deserve to be evicted for their ongoing neglect.
I warned you early on that I woke up angry. The desecration, insult and abuse to our community and to this land is real, and those in positions of leadership need to step up and say “enough is enough.”
The defilement of this special place has gone on way too long, and it’s sad and disgusting that we, collectively, have allowed it so.
The property should be taken away from those who now control its ownership, and developed as a community asset that honors and respects its history, culture and sacredness. Yes, of course, they need to be paid fair-market value. I am angry, but not that angry.
Our county government must hold the developers to the letter of the law, revoke permits that are not in compliance, and begin condemnation proceedings. We, as a community, led by those with ancestral roots in that ‘aina, must hold the vision. And, yes, individuals and institutions of wealth and influence must join in partnership and support of that vision. All three components are needed, and all three must join together, united in purpose.
No doubt, it’s a big lift. I get that.
But we need to hold the intention.
No hotel will ever again be built on that property.
A comprehensive, inclusive community vision that honors the history, the culture and the sacredness of that place will in fact move forward and become a reality.
Gary Hooser is the former vice-chair of the Democratic Party of Hawai‘i, and served eight years in the state Senate, where he was majority leader. He also served for eight years on the Kaua‘i County Council, and was the former director of the state Office of Environmental Quality Control. He serves presently in a volunteer capacity as board president of the Hawai‘i Alliance for Progressive Action and is executive director of the Pono Hawai‘i Initiative.