Hawaii & Alaska
Crews are working to remove portions of a damaged pavilion at Baldwin Beach Park. (Source: Hawaii News Now)

HI - Editorial: Coastal erosion threatens parks

Baldwin Beach Park’s doomed pavilion is a “poster child” for the damage coastal erosion and sea level rise cause.

This newspaper has been chronicling the pavilion’s plight for decades. Almost every August or September we run a story or photos showing how currents, wind and waves have cut into the beach to create cliffs where a month earlier was a hill of gently sloping sand. The progression of photos shows the ocean advancing farther inland each year to nibble away at the pavilion and tumble its amenities and shade trees one by one into the sea.

This year, about a third of the structure had to be removed due to erosion damage. What’s left is already undermined. In a month or so, if history is any indicator, the sand will have returned and the pavilion will be sitting high and dry.

It was encouraging to hear Maui County Parks and Recreation Director Karla Peters say her department is currently conducting a vulnerability study for all county beach parks. She says the study will help determine where resources are spent for repairs and upgrades and where there will need to be a “managed retreat.”

The study by Honolulu consulting and engineering firm Tetra Tech is expected take about a year and will identify the location and the extent of the threat to park facilities.

“We have a lot of capital improvement projects at these parks, and one of the critical questions is how do we invest in facilities if there is a chance they will be damaged or destroyed in the future,” said Parks planner David Yamashita. “The poster child is the Baldwin Beach Park Pavilion.”

The department, with assistance from park staffers and a community advisory committee, is working on a Baldwin Beach master plan that includes replacing the structure with one or two inland pavilions. It is fortunate Baldwin has plenty of space to accommodate the improvements. That is not the case for all of Maui’s threatened oceanfront parks.

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Read also Crews to remove portion of damaged pavilion at Baldwin Beach Park