Mo`omomi to Be Gated
Ten years ago, Mo`omomi was vibrant, green and healthy, with plentiful fish, according to Molokai-born Halealoha Ayau, Department of Hawaiian Homelands (DHHL) acting district supervisor for Molokai. Now, he said, the landscape is suffering, resources are being depleted, and the buildings are facing a high level of vandalism and damage. Because of this, Ayau has made a tough decision: erect a gate at Mo`omomi and initiate managed access to the area.
“You’re not permanently being blocked,” Ayau told attendees at a DHHL meeting held last week to get community feedback on how access should be managed. “We need to let her heal.”
That decision was met with both support and opposition. The gate will be installed at the “Hawaiian lands in Hawaiian hands” sign, before the Molokai Ranch gate. DHHL owns the majority of Mo`omomi land, adjacent to acreage owned by the Ranch. How access to the area will be managed is still under discussion. Currently, residents and tourists can use the area freely.
Opu`ulani Albino testified in favor of the gate, saying managed access will cause residents to “love [Mo`omomi] even more and treat it in a different way.”
Many kupuna remembered the days when the gate used to be there: They would pick up the key when they wanted to visit the beach area. Some said they believed the system worked well, and fostered responsibility by those who held the key.
Yet some homesteaders and residents strongly opposed the gate. They said they wanted to be free to enjoy Mo`omomi at any time.
“Just going down there… makes my day,” said one resident.
Another resident said he would be the one to “ram the gate” if it was installed, saying a meeting should have been held to gather input before the decision was made. Others testified that while they agree that a management plan may be necessary, they don’t believe a locked gate is the answer.
Cause and Consequence
“Mo`omomi was their [ancestors’] life. Mo`omomi raised each and every one of you,” said Yama Kaholoa`a, who opposed the plan. “We become victims of this gate going up because of a few people.”
But those “few people” have been vandalizing the pavilion building, ripping out toilets and driving four-wheelers that have damaged native plants, said Ayau and others.
“I work down there and I tell you right now, we’re in trouble,” said Mac Poepoe, who has dedicated his life to caring for area. He is part of the community management organization Hui Malama O Mo`momi. Poepoe was the first to conduct scientific data collecting at Mo`omomi that “validated the science of our kupuna,” according to Albino. That data has now been widely accepted, and Poepoe’s work has been used as an example of successful indigenous recourse management. But even with his efforts, Poepoe said the area has suffered.
“It’s too late, the damage is done,” he said.
While the Hui was consulted before Ayau made the decision to lock the gate, along with neighboring landowners and other groups, Ayau stressed that Hui Malama O Mo`omomi was not responsible for the decision.
For homesteader Kammy Purdy, education of youth is the key to stopping vandalism of the area. “We have to sit down with our children and grandchildren… Tell them it better not be them down there wrecking the place.”
Ayau said a lot still needs to happen before the gate can be installed. DHHL is waiting on signs that will notify users of the regulations. A company to build and install the gate also needs to be chosen through a bidding process. But before that, Ayau said an additional community meeting will be held in which several management options will be presented for feedback.
“I want to return it to a healthy state – I know every person in this room wants that,” he said, “but we may not agree on how.”
One thing Ayau said came out of last week’s meeting is that a gate alone will not solve the problem, citing the need for more comprehensive management.
“Initially, we’ll have to lock it,” he said. “When responsibility improves, we can meet again to reevaluate.”