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VOICE: Coco Palms – This is no longer a good hotel site

Located next to a four-lane highway, in a flood-prone area, across from a beach that could disappear, in a community that feels we already have more than enough visitors, Coco Palms makes no sense in as a hotel site.

Visitors won’t want to stay in a resort right next to a four-lane highway. They also won’t want to cross four lanes of roaring cars – 40,000 a day – to get to the beach – even with a crosswalk. Without an overpass, access to Wailua beach is already inconvenient and unpleasant; four-way will only make matters worse.

How long will the beach still be there? With global warming and rising sea levels, who knows how much beach will be left in the years to come?

The record-breaking flooding on the north Kaua’i coast in 2018 showed how extraordinary and more frequent flooding will be on Kaua’i. Much of the Coco Palms property is in the flood zone. Visitors will not appreciate having to evacuate in the middle of the night because the waters rise around them. Potential homeowners would do well to think about the loss of income due to recovery and repairs after the floods.

Importantly, there is a growing consensus on Kaua’i that we no longer need visitor units and visitors per day. The pandemic and the ongoing reopening have made it clear: Kaua’i is out of balance – we have more visitors per day than the island can handle.

Even without a hotel in Coco Palms, our island is reeling from the negative impacts of too many visitors. Our roads are once again congested with traffic. We started to plan our lives around traffic again. Our beaches and surf spots, as well as our recreational, scenic and cultural areas, are teeming with people. Residents of Kaua’i miss the deserted beaches and roads, the slower pace, and the peace and quiet we experienced during the shutdown.

Make no mistake, hospitality and aloha are part of who we are, and welcoming visitors is an important part of our economy and our destiny. But when the numbers overwhelm and negatively affect our community, it’s time to draw the line.

Even the visitor industry recognizes that Kaua’i has more visitors than it can handle. According to Kaua’i’s Tourism Strategic Plan, the average pre-COVID daily visitor level of 25,000 to 30,000 visitors exceeded Kaua’i’s carrying capacity, both environmentally and socially. Shrewd industry leaders know that overtourism puts the tourism industry as well as the community at risk.

If appropriate boundaries are established, tourism can be a “win-win”. Without limits, everyone – the aena, the residents, the visitors, the tourism industry – loses.

It is the destiny of Coco Palms to be more than a hotel site. A group of visionary and heartfelt community leaders called I Ola Wailuanui worked on an exciting new vision for Coco Palms – a vision that honors Coco Palms’ ancient past as part of a vibrant cultural, economic and political hub on Kaua’i. that flourished along the life-giving Wailua River and merges it with the future we want to see on Kaua’i.

In its new life in the 21st century, Coco Palms can be a park and cultural center that interprets and celebrates the history of Wailua ahupua’a (including its time as a beloved hotel) and serves as a venue for native Hawaiian arts, crafts, dance, music and education.

It will be something to be proud of. Something that improves life and understanding about Kaua’i.

I suspect that a large majority of Kaua’i people would prefer that kind of future for Coco Palms. If you agree, take a stand by signing the petition at bit.ly/wailuanui

Coco Palms is in ruins as a hotel site. It would be unwise to invest in this site for a hotel. Without the support of the community, this cannot be successful. The people of Kaua’i have shown time and time again that they will not stand idly by and watch their island be damaged. There is too much of the good and the beautiful on our island and our community that we need to protect. This is our kuleana.

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JoAnn Yukimura is a former mayor and council member who served in Kaua’i for 28 years. She started the Kaua’i Bus and helped draft and get the first vacation rental and shoreline retreat laws passed. She was also part of the organizing committee that created the KIUC. In her early days as a citizen activist, she led the effort to stop the skyscrapers in Kaua’i.