Keone`o`io Bay is the historic gateway to the six miles of South Maui’s pristine coastline (from Keone`o`io/La Perouse Bay to Kanaloa Point) is being proposed for a National Park. Congresswoman Patsy Mink introduced (H.R. 591) directing the National Park Service to conduct a feasibility study and a recent letter (May 2, 2001) to Rep. Mink from National Park Service Regional director John Reynolds indicated his intention to direct the NPS Honolulu office to undertake a reconnaissance study of the area.
Both the Maui County Council and Hawaii State Legislature have passed resolutions supporting the national park at Keone`o`io. A Friends of Keone`o`io group was recently organized to train volunteer docents to monitor the area and educate visitors about sensitive historical and biological features.
There is a critical need for management and protection of this important area. Ke`oneoi`o (La Perouse Bay) is rich with historical, archaeological and biological resources that will benefit from interpretive programs under national park management. These include extensive historical and archeological remains of ancient Hawaiian fishing villages, unique coastal anchialine ponds with rare life forms, outstanding geological formations, native coastal plants, schools of spinner dolphins and numerous species of fish and other marine life.
Recreational uses include swimming, snorkeling, nature study, fishing, kayaking, small boat launching, hiking and camping (currently illegal and unregulated) The historic Hoapili trail traverses the entire area, which has long been envisioned as a wilderness reserve and recreational resource.
While approximately four miles of the Keone`o`io to Kanaloa coastline is currently in state ownership, two of the six miles proposed for the national park (Keone`o`io/La Perouse bay and Kanaio Beach) are privately owned by a large ranch that is experiencing economic pressures to divest of non ranching lands. The two areas in private ownership are the ones most widely used by the public.
Visitors and residents alike have been flocking to the Keone`o`io shoreline in recent years, drawn by its accessible hiking and swimming areas and rugged beauty. The South Maui Coast adjoining the proposed park is the fastest growing area in the state of Hawaii. Expanding population needs make preservation of the Keone`o`io coast and its unique historical, wildlife and recreational resources a priority for Maui’s future.