Mo`omomi to be Gated Soon
In an effort to prevent further overfishing, vandalism and overall neglect of natural resources of Mo`omomi Beach, a gate will be installed to restrict vehicle access to the area, according to Halealoha Ayau, Department of Hawaiian Homelands (DHHL) acting district supervisor for Molokai. DHHL hopes to have it installed by the end of the month, but because there is only one person on staff who has the skill to build the gate, it may take longer, according to Ayau
“We’re hoping the gate will help promote responsible behavior, because there has been such a high level of vandalism, cutting through fences and fence posts and really irresponsible behavior, at the pavilion especially,” said Ayau. “We’re trying to figure out a way so that people can still enjoy Mo`omomi [but] not allow it to be destroyed or mistreated.”
Returning to a System that Worked
Many residents remember growing up at Mo`omomi when access was similarly managed – via a gate –and they were still able to enjoy the beach. A key access system fostered accountability among those who had the key, as well as those who accessed the area while others retained the key, according to many community members.
“It’s not locking people out, it’s taking responsibility,” said homesteader Wayde Lee, who supports the decision to once again gate Mo`omomi. “[The area] needs time to heal … people need to heal.”
A key system will again be used to control access, said Ayau A notice explaining the situation was included in the DHHL’s water bill to homesteaders last month. Homesteaders who wish to camp or visit Mo`omomi will be able to pick up the gate key from the DHHL office and keep it for up to a week. For as long as they have the key, they will be responsible for any damages or vandalism that occurs at Mo`omomi, whether it was caused by their party or visitors they let in. There will be three keys, each to be given out on a first come, first serve basis, said Ayau.
Public access will be available every day except for Tuesdays, which will be reserved for maintenance. There will still be unrestricted pedestrian access to Mo`omomi, so homesteaders and guests may still visit whenever they like.
With Privilege Comes Responsibility
At a DHHL meeting held in February of this year, many homesteaders voiced strong opposition to the gate, saying their rights to enjoy Mo`omomi was being restricted.
“Mo`omomi was their [ancestors’] life. Mo`omomi raised each and every one of you,” said Yama Kaholoa`a, who opposed the plan at the meeting. “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.
Over the course of a two year period, 30 toilets have been destroyed, according to Lee.
“A lot of people came down to help build the place… it’s sad more people go down to break [it],” he said.
“Mo`omomi is a privilege for all of us, and that means we have to be responsible, and we haven’t,” said Ayau. “You don’t have the right to go there and dump rubbish wherever you like. We want to encourage the community to be more responsible.”
Ayau said the gate is a trial process, and if proven unnecessary in the future, may be removed.
For now, though, Ayau said this is the best proven way to balance homesteaders’ rights to access Mo`omomi with DHHL’s responsibility to manage precious resources.
Aside from erecting the gate, the DHHL has been busy finalizing a grant application to the U.S. Department of Agriculture that would secure over $6 million in funds to upgrade the DHHL water system. Much of the technology is outdated, and the system itself has deteriorated over time, according to Ayau. The DHHL hopes to have the application completed by September.