Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Baldwin Beach Park Erosion - Save our Beaches

Baldwin Beached Mermaid
(click to enlarge image)
Baldwin Beach Park is a place I return to often to keep my life in balance.  I need my beach time like many others who live here. There is an attraction to be near the ocean for its rejuvenating properties and natural beauty. Why be indoors in a gym to exercise when we have great weather year round on Maui. The best things in life are free.

Beautiful Baldwin Beach normal
conditions (click to enlarge image)
I live less than 20 minutes to this picturesque beach an artist dream location. It is one of my favorites on the island for its aqua blue water and white soft sand. The light blue ocean is constantly in motion along the beautiful shores of the West Maui Mountains with its dramatic entrance into the heart of Iao Valley. The mountain tip ends at the head of Kahakuloa.  It is an ideal place to relax, meditate and exercise. The long sandy beach makes it great for running and walking. It is a gathering place for the locals who come to meet their friends and bring their fur babies to socialize. This beach is for families that come together and play. At the far west end of the park there is a protected area called Baby Beach. It is ideal for all ages especially the little ones because the water is calm. It is a natural salt water swimming pool. Turtles are often seen here. 

Cement block with wiheels
(click to enlarge image)
August 3rd 2016, I noticed something different about Baldwin. I noticed the erosion seemed excessive, more so than usual. I found new things unearthed by the ocean that day. I found a cement block with wheels (see picture). Over the last few years during my runs on the beach, I never noticed this big object before. Now, there were many more trees, more cement blocks, wires, and old plumbing and pipes too. I thought this was strange. Every visit since that day, I took notice of the shrinking beach cutting my running path short.     

Jack Bunch, Maui lifeguard
I showed the picture of the cement block with wheels to my friend Jack Bunch, who has been a Maui lifeguard for eight years. He thought this might be the remnants from the old lime kiln that used to operate on this beach many years ago. He had never seen it exposed before. 

“Maui Agriculture Co., run by Alexander and Baldwin, constructed the Paia Lime Kiln in 1907. Over much of the next seven decades, sand and coral were excavated from the beach to manufacture hydrated lime for plantation uses, build roads and airstrips and also produce cement during wartime. Railroad tracks and a roadway ran through the area. Portions of the old asphalt roadbed are sometimes visible on the beach today.” Excerpt from article:  

Exposed pipes and building parts
Lifeguard station on shrinking beach
Jack has lived on Maui for over thirty years and moved here when he was seven.  He learned to body surf at this beach and is a fisherman and has seen the changes. He has witnessed a few years of extra heavy erosion and this year 2016 was no exception. He told me the sand on the east side of the beach used to stretch out further. There used to be many more iron wood trees, park benches, a lifeguard storage facility, and a public bathroom. All of that has since been taken by the sea. When the annual cycle of ocean whisks away the sand between August and September on the east side of this park, the beach shrinks and exposes buried trunks of large trees and rooted stumps but not to the degree we are witnessing this year 2016.  This summer, it was more like a forest graveyard with relics of the past revealing itself. 
Shower collapses
I asked Jack what his thoughts were on the matter. He believes it is from the man made sea walls. He has noticed that the water patterns are irregular. These man-made barriers change the flow of the ocean. Jack added that the beach always comes back after those two months, but he has observed overall the beach is slowly disappearing. 

Parking lot meets the sea and more
exposure of pipes and new fallen trees
Mid-August, almost two weeks later, the outdoor shower falls into the ocean and there are

new collapsing trees. This confirmed to me something was out of the ordinary. That same day I saw Heidi, of Ailana Surveying & Geomatics.  I have seen her several times over the years on this beach with her equipment and knew she was monitoring the beach and ocean. I was interested more than ever to find out what was going on. Was this the result of global warming or something else?  Heidi put me in touch with Tara Owens, Coastal Processes and Hazards Specialist, University of Hawaii Sea Grant College Program, and County of Maui Planning Department. Both ladies agreed to share their knowledge for this blog story.  I thank you for your contribution and I hope your story can help us make a difference and bring awareness to this issue.

Question:  What is causing this extensive erosion that we are experiencing this summer on Baldwin Beach?  Should we be concerned?  Will the beach come back? 

The high waves from NW swell 
reaches the pavilion.
Heidi:  As of September 18th we just had a couple small NW swells that started to bring the beach back to the Cove. The summer erosion at the Cove is temporarily reversed during the winter; however, the long-term trend for the Cove is chronic erosion.  During the 4.5 years of our study this summer 2016 and the summer of 2012 standout as having especially dramatic erosion at the Cove.

Heidi Sherman with her 
survey-grade GPS.
Yes, I think we should be concerned, at least to the extent that we should consider relocating the pavilion and adjacent parking lot farther away from the ocean. In the future we may even want to consider alternatives to leaving the rock revetment in place.

Tara:  Beaches are dynamic systems. Sand is always moving, both onshore/offshore and alongshore. This is the natural function of a beach as it forms the buffer between land and sea. All of Maui's beaches are eroding in the long term.  Generally speaking, the primary driver of this trend is rising sea levels, which forces shorelines to chronically retreat (move landward over time). Additionally, there are seasonal events (i.e. winter or summer waves) and episodic events (i.e. storms) that can cause temporary or permanent changes to the shoreline. Finally, these forces are often complicated and exacerbated by human influences on the sand supply (i.e. sand mining and seawalls or revetments).

Baldwin Beach Parking lot flooded
Speaking long-term, Baldwin Beach has had the highest rates of erosion on the island (up to 5 ft. /yr., compared to an island average of about 0.6 ft. /yr.).  This is a function of natural and human causes. The beaches on the north shore of Maui, particularly Baldwin, were heavily mined for sand (for lime and cement) up until the 1970s. This created a deficit in the sand supply for the beach, leading to chronic erosion. This practice was outlawed statewide with the adoption of the Hawaii Coastal Zone Management Act (Hawaii Revised Statues 205A) in 1977.

Parking lot near the gazebo
To add to these chronic trends, there are seasonal trends that are also complicated by natural and human factors. The erosion you are observing right now at the east end ("the Cove") is a common seasonal change, and the beach will recover very quickly when the first winter swells arrive, usually in late September. Our data shows that the beaches will likely return to about average conditions (width and volume) by mid-November.  What happens here is that the seasonal NE trade wind waves (about April to September) create a longshore current that pushes sand from east to west over the summer season. The trend reverses when the NW winter swells arrive (September to March), pushing sand back from west to east, and the cove recovers. 

However, this natural process is further complicated by the presence of the old rock revetment to the east that used to protect a lime kiln used for sugar cane. The revetment disrupts sand transport down the coast from the Paia side, so during the summer sand is pushed away from the down drift side of the revetment, creating a sediment void, which results in extreme shoreline retreat of 100 feet or more. If the revetment weren't there, the seasonal erosion would not be as extreme.

Finally, this seasonal erosion, while typical, has reached a new extreme this year, which is clearly shown in the data (see pictured graphic), and of course by your observations. This is possibly related to strong and consistent trade winds over the summer that may be related to larger climate trends, such as ENSO patterns.  El NiƱo-Southern Oscillation (ENSO) is a naturally occurring phenomenon that involves fluctuating ocean temperatures in the equatorial Pacific. The warmer waters essentially slosh, or oscillate, back and forth across the Pacific, much like water in a bath tub.

Question:  What is the device Heidi uses to study Baldwin Beach with and what data is she collecting. What made you select Baldwin Beach to study or do you also take readings from the other Maui beaches and if Baldwin specifically, why?  

Tara:The data is being gathered by my friend and colleague, Heidi Sherman. We started this project together in 2012, in support of a Maui College student who was studying the beach changes for one year in pursuit of his Marine Options Program certificate. Since that time, Heidi has single handedly continued the surveys out of interest in scientifically documenting the changes in such a dynamic system.

The surveys were started in April 2012, and have been collected roughly every month with some exceptions. The surveys collect topographic data for the entire beach using survey-grade GPS equipment. The data from each survey can then be compared to look at changes to shoreline location and sand volume over time. After 4.5 years, this data is becoming a very rich set.  If Heidi continues, we may eventually be able to find a correlation to ENSO activity (as expressed by local winds).

Heidi:  I do quasi-monthly beach surveys on the main stretch of Baldwin Beach. Less frequently, I do beach surveys east of the rock revetment to Paia Bay. If we consider alternatives to the rock revetment or expand facilities at Baldwin Beach Park it will be useful to understand beach behavior on the Paia side too. I also do beach surveys at other Maui beaches through our company Ailana Surveying & Geomatics

I studied geology and my husband, Anthony Crook, is a Professional Land Surveyor. We own Ailana Surveying & Geomatics LLC.  I enjoy collecting and analyzing data that show how beaches change seasonally and year-to-year and comparing this with changes in seasonal and year-to-year wave data.  Hopefully the beach data we collect will also support finding smarter solutions to beach erosion issues.

To learn more about Baldwin Beach and the scientific data that Tara Owens and Heidi Sherman are gathering we encourage you to join the Baldwin Beach Study Facebook group:
Or Baldwin Beach Study Google+ community:
Please upload your photos and observations of Baldwin Beach.

Question:  Besides your Face Book and Google+ page what other websites or videos can I include in this interview to share with the world?

Tara: There is lots of stuff out there. Here are a few videos/presentations relating to local Maui issues:

For those who want to dive in deeper for the history of this North Shore area, here is an article written by Rob Parsons, currently the County's Environmental Coordinator, 10 years ago, but still very relevant: 

Maui Huliau Foundation:  "Restoring the Dunes" -

"Kahana Bay Erosion Mitigation through Regional Beach Nourishment" -

"Kahana Bay Regional Beach Nourishment Project" -

"Managing Maui's Dynamic Shorelines" -

Question:  What is your educational background if any? Who sponsors the study?  Are you looking to raise money?  Do you want to bring awareness to the erosion problem?  How can we as people prevent damage to our coast line?

Tara:  I am a coastal geologist for the University of Hawaii Sea Grant Program.  My program is based at UH Manoa on Oahu; however, I work and reside on Maui as a liaison to the Maui County Planning Department.  I work side by side with the County's coastal zone management (CZM) planners.  In this role, I serve as a science adviser providing technical expertise that informs County of Maui planning and decision-making activities for coastal resource management and coastal land use.  I also conduct formal and informal education and outreach activities on coastal processes, coastal hazards, climate change, and sea-level rise to educate a wide range of students, community members, and stakeholder groups.  My short bio is here:

Erosion is widespread on Maui.  There are general trends and causes, but also the exact drivers and impacts can be somewhat site specific. We are always working to build awareness within the Maui community of the problem and the range of response options.

This study is currently not sponsored. As mentioned above, it was started as a student project and Heidi has kept it going for scientific interest. We have sought grant funding one time for additional support, and likely will pursue funding again.

Question:  Where can people volunteer to help clean the beach and protect the dunes?  Can people help fund the projects to nourish and rebuild the shoreline?

Tara:  The group that was featured in the dune restoration video is the South Maui Volunteers (aka Ho'aloha Aina).  They are an amazing team of folks from the community that have dedicated their entire existence to dune restoration. Bob and Lis Richardson lead that group, and they hold workdays every Monday. They mostly work in South Maui in the well-used beach parks; however, they collaborate on other projects around the island as requested. They also work with elementary school groups in South Maui.  There are many more videos on their website:

We are always trying to encourage and build other steward groups like the SMVs.

Another group that has been very good dune/beach stewards is the Paia Youth and Cultural Center, who have also worked collaboratively with us to restore dunes around their site and the adjacent Park parcels.

Question:  I see saving our coastline is your passion.  How did you fall into this line of work?  Was it a calling early on before attending college?  Or were you guided to this job and opportunity where one thing led to another.  I like to blog about people’s passion for Maui and what drives them to do what they do in life or inspire people to be of service to their Hawaii community.

Tara Owens
Tara:  For me, the short answer is:  This was an early childhood calling that led to opportunities I would have never known existed and then one thing led to another...

The long answer is:  I grew up in landlocked Tennessee.  My parents took us on family vacations periodically to coastal South Carolina, where my passion for the ocean was ignited. My parents tell a story from a visit to Myrtle when I was age 5.  I was recovering from chicken pox and they wouldn't let me swim in the ocean. No matter that I couldn't swim because I was happy to spend entire days digging buckets full of sand crabs in fascination, and my parents knew I was hooked.  Eventually I hoped to find a way to get a college degree in this area, so my parents helped me in high school to find Coastal Carolina University, which at the time was one of only a few undergraduate colleges in the US with a degree in Marine Science.  So, I went.  It wasn't until I got there and was inspired by, and afforded opportunities by, one of my college professors Dr. Paul Gayes, in the more specific focus area of coastal geology.  Before this time, I didn't even realize that the field of "coastal geology" existed and that I could have a career doing it. Dr. Gayes hired me as an undergraduate as a research technician, which is almost unheard of at the undergraduate level.  I worked with him and his team for all four years and loved every moment of it. We went up and down the entire South Carolina coastline collecting data on every single beach.  [Side note:  This just goes to show how important your teachers can be in your life.]  Because of this extensive experience, upon graduation I was offered a Research Assistantship for graduate school at the University of Hawaii at Manoa in the prestigious School of Ocean and Earth Science and Technology with coastal geologist Dr. Chip Fletcher as my adviser.  My research focused on historical shoreline changes at Waikiki Beach.  After receiving my Master’s degree, I returned to the mainland working first for the USGS and then NOAA.  However, Maui called and I returned in 2010 when this job became available.

Heidi Sherman with her keiki
(click to enlarge image)
Heidi:  I like beaches.  I grew up on Lake Michigan.  When I met my husband, Anthony, we lived on the beach in Durban, South Africa.  I’ve also lived near the coast in Maine and New Zealand.  I studied geology and Anthony studied geophysics and land surveying.  We got married on a beach on Oahu and then decided to move to Hawaii, where we started ‘Ailana Surveying & Geomatics.  Beach studies are a great way to combine interests in geology and land surveying.  I enjoy collecting and analyzing data that show how beaches change seasonally and year-to-year and comparing this with changes in seasonal and year-to-year wave data.  Hopefully the beach data we collect will also support finding smarter solutions to beach erosion issues.

As of today September 19, 2016 the "Cove" on the east side of Baldwin Beach is filling back in nicely and the sand is returning although the beach is missing a few more trees and shower.

Monday, September 5, 2016

Joe the Maui Man with White Cross

For many years, I have seen this mysterious man with shoulder length gray hair and tan skin.  He carries a big white cross over his shoulder. He's dressed in black and has a sweet smile. He always waves at everyone passing by and blows them kisses. Maybe you have seen him too. I’ve seen him while driving through Kahului and Paia Town. I've seen him mowing the lawn at the Holy Rosary Church with his big white cross strapped to his back and during my runs on Baldwin Beach. He always catches my eye so one day I decided to stop him on the white sand beach to talk story. I wanted to know more about this man and his quest.

I want to share with my readers the stories of the local people who live here on Maui. This past year, I have learned a lot about Joe. I hope you enjoy my interview with one of our interesting Maui residents.

Joe is genuinely a kind person who is making a statement being a man in motion.

Kathy: When did you start your walk with the cross?

Joe: I started to carry the cross in 1981. I stated out with smaller crosses and they have gotten bigger over the years.

Kathy: What inspired you to do this?

Joe: I felt Jesus speaking to me. He told me to carry a white cross and propagate my love and the spirit of love. I greet others with a Holy kiss. There is always a holy kiss that I throw to everybody. Most of the time, I start from my house in Paia and walk down Baldwin and Hana Highway and walk as far as I can. I start as early in the morning as possible so I can go farther.

Kathy: How long have you been a member of the Holy Rosary Church?

Joe: I was born and raised in Paia and my family sent me to the Holy Rosary School and Church. I was baptized, confirmed and received Jesus when I was young.

Kathy: What is the message you want to share with people who see you?

Joe: The main thing is to accept Jesus into your life. Ask Jesus to speak to you and he will. He will come into your life and speak to you. The best time to ask him to come into your life is when you really have big problems. Ask the Lord to forgive you for all of your sins and please come into your life and help you out. That’s all. He will come into your life and he’ll speak to you and tell you how to live so you can live a better and blessed life. When I am walking with my cross, I constantly pray and ask God to save the innocent sinless children too.

Kathy: How long do you plan on walking and carrying the cross?

Joe: I will walk for as long as I can with the cross. If I should not be able to walk one day and I am lying in a bed or sitting in a wheel chair, I have the cross tattooed and visible on my forehead so people can come to know Jesus and accept him in their life. He will solve your problems and give you so much joy! In the word of God Jesus said: I will give you a joy no one can take from you.

Joe loves everyone and is one of my new friends on Maui. I respect what he does. I think it's cool he shares a powerful message of God, Jesus and Love. No matter what your belief, his message is inspiring and all about aloha. At age 71, Joe tells us that Jesus does everything for him and gives him much joy. His mission is to carry the cross and speak to everyone so that they can come to know Jesus and allow him to solve their problems.

Thank you Joe. We love you too!