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HOOSER: Reclaiming Coco Palms — a just cause

I’ve never donated $2,000 to anything, let alone $10,000. Like most of us, I don’t have a ton of money and after the bills that are due on the first of every month are paid, there’s no shortage of other family needs and wants.

But this project is incredibly important. Success means we, collectively as a community, leave a lasting legacy for our mo‘opuna, and for generations to come — in perpetuity.

Failure means we and they will forever lose a historical and cultural treasure that if called by its rightful name is Wailuanuiahono. For 30 years now we have put up with the desecration of this very special place, formerly known as the Coco Palms Resort. The more we have learned about it’s history, the more we are moved to preserve, protect, and restore this very special place.

The endless trail of broken promises made by one Utah LLC after another, must stop today.

Fortunately, our community has the law on its side as the existing permitting process is fraught with legal issues.

According to existing law and past court rulings, the Coco Palms Hotel development permits should have lapsed due to insufficient progress. In addition the project has not complied with state law HRS 343, which requires an environmental review for all actions that impact coastal areas, involve state lands, or features that have been registered as historical — all three situations which exist within this development.

The very foundation of these permits are also based on a “special law” passed only to benefit the developers, which the Hawaii Supreme Court has previously ruled in Sierra Club v State Department of Transportation for State of Hawaii (the Super Ferry case) is unconstitutional.

Yes, the community has the law on its side and yes, this is a righteous and just cause.

Pressing forward on the three legal issues cited above may in fact be inevitable. Another more positive path is based on a vision where a community nonprofit purchases and manages these lands for the benefit of future generations.

I Ola Wailuanui, is a community organization led by Kaua‘i residents of which I am a part of is pursuing such a path. More information on the plans and vision, and on the history and cultural significance of Wailuanuiahono can be found at

While no firm price has been offered by the existing owners, approximately $22 million was the number reported at the foreclosure auction in 2021.

In addition to the purchase price is the cost of demolition, restoration, ongoing maintenance, and future components of the long term vision — museum, cultural center, educational facilities, canoe hale, fishpond and traditional agricultural operations etc.

Yes, it’s a big lift. But we can, and must do it.

Ultimately, this community driven effort will purchase and manage the property via 501c3 nonprofits with experience and a proven track record.

It’s clear that the initial upfront funding needed to purchase, demolish, and maintain the property must come from private high net worth donors, trusts and foundations, as well as grassroots community supporters — people like you and me. Government funding sources at the federal, state, and county levels would also be tapped where possible.

I’m asking today that you join me in pledging your support via a future tax deductible donation. This requires no out-of-pocket money today and is simply a statement that says when I Ola Wailuanui and its fiscal 501c3 sponsors are able to raise enough money to close on the purchase — then and only then will you fulfill your pledge and make a contribution.

Your pledge could be over time, which is how I have structured mine — $2,000 upon closing and purchase of the property, and then $2,000 per year for the next four years.

Please step up today and make a pledge of your own if you can. Email for a pledge form. Gift pledges prior to Nov. 1 are especially important as I Ola Wailuanui will soon be meeting again with the owners.

We each have a different capacity to give. Some reading this column today are able to write a check for the entire amount in one motion. Others could give $5 million per year for five years and still others will stretch themselves to give $100 per year for the same five years. All help and support is important, and no pledge is too small.

For me, $2,000 x five years is a stretch and something I’ve not ever done for any other organization or community project. I’m doing it today though because my grandchildren are counting on me to leave this place a little better than I found it.

Please, join me if you can and give to a level that makes you feel as good as I do right now — for our mo‘opuna.


Gary Hooser is the former vice-chair of the Democratic Party of Hawai‘i, and served eight years in the state Senate, where he was majority leader. He also served for eight years on the Kaua‘i County Council, and was the former director of the state Office of Environmental Quality Control. He serves in a volunteer capacity as board president of the Hawai‘i Alliance for Progressive Action and is executive director of the Pono Hawai‘i Initiative.
Source: The Garden Island

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