Saturday | December 10, 2016
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Sign-waving is a legal right

It’s true that Queen Kaahumanu Highway, and the drivers who use it, can be dangerous. It’s also true that citizens want, need and have a duty to participate in civic life and democracy. Unfortunately, members of the public are often severely limited in their ability to spread the word about critical issues when they aren’t well-heeled like the corporate giants who abuse, overuse or take advantage of places and communities they don’t know or care about.

As soon as Monday, the old jeep road from the south end of the “Pine Trees” surfing bay south to Kohanaiki Shores LLC’s private, by-the-sea restaurant will be closed to vehicular access. That lovely stretch of shoreline is part of the public’s new 38-acre park — a mere sliver of the 500 acres the public fought to protect from development for two decades. Changing that access will seriously alter the use of a significant portion of public park already squeezed by a private golf course and beach facilities. The message of sign-wavers, at least 4,000 people who signed a petition and other committed residents who’ve made telephone calls and sent countless emails to county representatives and Kohanaiki Shores’ CEO Saul Pinto is that they want the Kohanaiki shoreline to be as public as possible by keeping the jeep road open to the public as it has been since World War II.

If you’ve passed sign-wavers at Kohanaiki, you know something is up — something of which you may not otherwise have been aware. You may have been one of the passersby who buoyed the spirits of volunteers with honks and waves or even stopped by to get more information. You may have been an employee of the Kohanaiki development who gave the thumbs up and said you’d be standing by the highway, too, if you didn’t fear losing your job. Or you may be a person who understands that it takes commitment, creativity and even discomfort to fight for what’s pono and important. While it costs thousands of dollars to advertise or pursue expensive “get the word out” efforts, sign-waving costs the price of making posters and displaying them — not so hard, but not so easy either, since everyone has a busy life and, yes, it’s noisy and even possibly dangerous. But sign-waving is an effective, legal and positive display of civic duty, community resolve and optimism that a united community can inform and change minds — maybe even the trajectory of giant corporations— to make the world a better place.

Each day, Kona drivers pass business and road signs, precariously placed power poles, pedestrians walking without sidewalks and a slew of other potential dangers and distractions. Like the small businesses who feel they need signage to bolster their business, the public needs inexpensive, temporary ways to relay messages about issues that can drastically affect their communities’ future.

Everyone who witnessed the accident that Deborah Wielt incorrectly attributed to sign-wavers knows what happened, especially my husband, who risked his own safety helping two young women out of the vehicle destroyed by the driver’s unfathomable wrecklessness. Wielt ignored the real culprits: the landowners and government agencies who created a new development and entrance road without safe access to it. The yellow markers on the center stripe near the Kohanaiki turn are knocked down regularly by drivers who U-turn over them, including commercial vehicles. The dangerous access makes criminals out of impatient drivers and creates a situation where more accidents or even deaths could occur unless Kohanaiki Shores LLC fixes the danger it’s created.

It was auspicious that a reporter was on the scene to record the danger first-hand and encouraging to be with fellow residents who put heart into committed action. But that part is no surprise, since the decades-long story of Kohanaiki has been that of infinite large and small hands sacrificing and working together to protect the place they love. And as the thousands of people who’ve signed the petition, stood by the road, or made calls to the landowners and “powers that be” know: Kohanaiki Shores LLC can do better by making their highway access safer and, most of all, respectfully allowing the public to have the lateral shoreline access at Kohanaiki they’ve known and relied upon for generations.

Janice Palma-Glennie is a Kona area resident.

Viewpoint articles are the opinion of the writer and not necessarily the opinion of the paper.