Thursday, June 18, 2009

North Shore Oahu: Keep the Country Country!

A drive along the North Shore of Oahu this past Monday revealed a strip of idyllic, palm tree-lined coastline overlooking calm, turquoise seas. The moana (ocean) was standing down with only baby waves lapping up on the wide, white sand beaches at Sunset, Waimea Bay and Rocky Point. Toddlers frolicked at the water’s edge while snorkellers and swimmers traversed across the ocean easily. In the distance, the green Wai’ane Mountains gave a stunning backdrop to the beach scene.

But don’t be fooled by this gentle June setting. For in the winter months, the North Shore is the sight of some of the most monumental waves on the planet. Mecca of the surfing world, its shore breaks are legendary: Banzai Pipeline, Backyards, Pupukea - waves up to 50 ft and more. The seven mile miracle. It is entirely fitting that the birthplace of surfing, Hawaii, is also the place where the waves demand the most respect from those courageous and skilled enough to ride them.
The North Shore consists of one long two-lane highway with beach houses and the quaint little surfing town of Hale’iwa with clapboard storefronts. There are no hotels in the town, no Waikiki-style high-rises and no runaway development going on along the coast. It is so refreshing and wonderful that it has been able to hang on to its country, relaxed ambiance.
If only. Regrettably, my musing can only be short-lived. The threat of development is out there. The one resort in the area – the large 880 acre Turtle Bay resort with over 400 rooms, which is located on the eastern point where the North Shore meets the Windward coast, is planning to develop 5 more hotels on its grounds. Another 3,500 rooms. Oh, say it isn’t so!
An impressive alliance of 26 citizen and environmental NGOs’ have come together to stage an opposition effort to what would ultimately change (ruin?) the feeling and ambiance of the North Shore. See the Ko’olauloa North Shore Alliance website. An expanded four-lane highway and 5 new hotels would bring a heavy footprint to this strip of pristine coastline. The Defend Oahu Coalition is one of the groups acting to protect the North Shore. Their slogan is Keep the Country Country!

Runaway tourism developments are a blight on the environment of places like Hawaii and countries in the Caribbean. Aren’t there enough of them out there already? Isn’t one Waikiki enough? Please watch the video on the Defend Oahu Coalition website for terrific surfing footage and hear the people who live on the North Shore speak about their concerns and opposition about turning the North Shore into another Waikiki. Keep the Country Country! Aloha and Mahalo! Copyright©Kathy Stanley.

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