HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) – Visitors are returning to East Maui and that’s stirring up mixed emotions among residents.
Some say they have seen an influx in traffic and trash along the road to Hana since the relaunch of Hawaii’s tourism industry on Oct. 15.
They’re asking the mayor to close the road to non-residents again.
But some small business owners say they need the tourists to survive.
Longtime Hana resident Jan Elliott snapped a photo showing congestion along Hana Highway last Thursday ― a week after the state’s tourism relaunch.
Elliott said a school bus driver had to get out and direct traffic to make enough room to pass.
Some East Maui residents say it’s just one of the many headaches they have been dealing with now that visitors are back.
“The big red flag right now is restroom availability for our visitors,” said Keanae resident Kamalani Pahukoa. “There’s evidence of people pulling over on the side of the road, going wherever they need to go. The road to Hana is very long.”
The road to Hana is 52 miles long with 56 one-lane bridges and over 600 curves. It is famous for its scenery.
The highway was closed to non-residents from March until July.
After that, community volunteers set up their own checkpoints.
Pahukoa says since tourism restarted trash has been piling up. She and others want the county to restrict access again.
“Keep it to the locals only at this time, which they did really well during the first months of the pandemic,” said Pahukoa.
Maui County Mayor Michael Victorino said the highway will stay open.
That’s welcome news for Neil Hasegawa whose General Store saw sales drop by 30% in the summer.
“People got to understand that we need the tourists in terms of income but we also have to protect ourselves in every way we can,” Hasegawa said.
“We want people to come to Hana but again, with the caveat of being safe and respectful.”
Victorino said all he can do for now is get more bathrooms open. “I’m also working with the state Department of Transportation and DLNR, see if there’s any possibility of us opening one and maybe the county using CARES Act, getting our personnel to help them,” he said.