The Wide Open Nature of Kauai

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The Wide Open Nature of Kauai

Posted by: Kim Steutermann Rogers
Destination: Kauai
Jun 30, 2009

Kaua’i is known for its wide-open spaces. That rural nature is created by small communities spread across the island and connected by broad swaths of green fields, valleys and mountains. Think about the stretch of road from Waimea to Kekaha, Kapa’a to Kilauea, even Kilauea to Princeville.

Once these fields produced sugar and pineapple and fed cattle. Put another way, Kaua’i’s ‘aina was a money-making machine. And while, today, sugar, pineapple and most of the cattle are gone, the ‘aina still fosters commerce, albeit another kind altogether.

This past weekend, a friend made an interesting statement. “Money makes the world go round,” she said. “Not love.” In a way, I suppose she’s right. The business of sugar was once king in these Hawaiian Islands.

I thought about my friend’s words today, as I walked a new section of the coastal path along east Kaua’i. As I meandered down the paved passageway, I noticed a turtle feeding in the water along the rocky shoreline. I watched a rooster scratch in the dirt. Listened to the surf reverberate on shore. Felt the sun beginning to burn my bare shoulders. The beach at Kealia was vibrant with the colorful swimsuits and trunks of sunbathers. Further down the path at Kuna Bay—also known as Donkey Beach—surfers lined up to ride waves.

On the ma uka—mountain—side of the path, instead of row after row of pineapple plants, the undulating fields now grow palm trees, grasses and naupaka, a native bush. At some point, after the pineapple and sugar industries plummeted, a wealthy real estate developer purchased the land that fronts this section of Ke Ala Hele Makala’e. Instead of pineapple and sugar, these lands—like so much of Kaua’i—now foster real estate development. I remember the brouhaha over his plan to convert the plantation lands into a well-to-do housing development that few kama ‘aina could afford. To date, only a couple homes dot the property; this will never be a high-density neighborhood. Indeed, the landscape looks quite natural—daresay, even more natural than when rows of pineapple plants lined these fields.

Hopefully—even as Costco, Home Depot and Starbucks arrive—the island will always retain the wide, open green space for which Kaua’i is known. Some people and organizations actively work to ensure we get to enjoy Kaua’i’s beauty for generations to come. This path serves as one way. Kilauea Point National Wildlife Refuge is another. Limahuli Gardens yet another. Even Na Aina Kai. There is even talk about expanding Hanalei’s Black Pot Beach Park.

Last Friday marked the grand opening of phase II of Ke Ala Hele Makala’e—the path that hugs the coastline. Now, people can walk, run, or ride their bikes some four miles between Lihi Boat Ramp in central Kapa’a and Ahihi Point in Kealia. Another two-and-a-half miles already meanders through Lydgate Park. Phase III will connect these two and, eventually, that path will run north to Anahola and all the way south to Nawiliwili.

As for whether money or love makes our world go round, my mind answers one way and my heart another. But who says we have to choose between the two. Whenever I go shoe shopping and can’t decide between the red, strappy sandals and the practical, black slides, I find myself at the cash register saying, “I’ll take both.” 

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