By Sonia Isotov
Supporters were ecstatic last Thursday when the Maui County Council members voted unanimously to ban alcohol at Kalama Park and Cove Park in Kihei.
More than 50 supporters and only a handful of dissenters crowded the Council Chambers as the Maui County Council’s Economic Development, Agriculture, and Recreation Committee heard testimony and passed EDR-22 by a vote of 7-0.
Although Thursday’s vote passed the bill on first reading, a final and full council vote is scheduled for January 20, at 9 a.m. Once passed by the full council, and upon the mayor’s signature, the law will go into effect.
Supporters like Barb Wallace, the County Park Department’s tennis program director for Kalama Park, feel confident that the bill will pass into law. “It is really about the kids and being able to go into the park and play and that’s what struck a chord with everyone. The park was built for the kids and the park is going to be safer without the alcohol there.”
“This bill passed because of the overwhelming support for the safety of the kids. There are no other sports parks for kids. There is no other place for kids to go, but adults can go drink anywhere. And that park was built for the kids. Why not make it safe for the kids?” Wallace added.
Wallace has been quietly “talking up” an alcohol ban since she started the county tennis program down at Kalama Park several years ago. Since then she has been seen as a leader in rallying the community on this issue.
Councilmember Don G. Couch, Jr. submitted the Kalama and Cove Park alcohol ban bill , and he also submitted a similar bill to ban alcohol at the new South Maui Community Park. The County Council passed the alcohol ban for the South Maui Community Park on final reading Thursday, and that bill now goes to the mayor for signature before becoming law. It was much easier to pass the South Maui Community Park alcohol ban since it is located right next to a school, Lokelani Intermediate School.
“Talk to the teachers and parents of the kids that Kalama Park attracts. They are begging us to support the ban. The police don’t have the necessary tools to roust out the drunks now,” said Councilmember Don Couch, on his Facebook page Wednesday, when he asked for community feedback on the bill.
“There was a similar ban at Charley Young Beach a few years ago – same concerns [and] the unwanted activity – the rowdy drunks – have ceased. People still have their drinks there – the “mature” people, and there has been no issue once the police had the tools to get rid of the problem,” Couch added.
Opponents of the alcohol ban were concerned about personal freedoms being taken away, and voiced concern that there are already laws in place to deal with the problem, i.e. “disorderly conduct”.
On Facebook, one person wrote, “I oppose the ban. It won’t do anything but deny reasonable activities to responsible people. Find a better way to deal with the derelicts.”
Councilmember Couch wrote on his Facebook page that much like Charley Young Beach where an alcohol ban is in place now, “If this passes, the police will have the opportunity to take action (bags or no bags – proven by Charley Young Beach) and in a few months, things will settle down and as long as no one is being obnoxious, I doubt the police will be called to the park because someone is drinking a beer with their family. Only when things get out of hand.”
Proponents believe that police need the tools to better deal with disorderly behavior at the parks.