BY DON GRAYDON
There's a battle brewing among Lahaina businessmen over a controversial question that has immense longterm implications for the town.
The question is: Should Lahaina be the site for an interisland ferry dock?
One group of businessmen praises the idea, seeing in it an economic windfall from big loads of tourists and an exciting addition to town activities.
Another group fears that dock facilities will be large and unattractive-more suited to an industrial area-and that traffic concongestion will result from cars and trucks carried by the ferry.
Another group-probably the largest of all-sits on the sidelines, not sure what is happening.
Because no one knows for sure what a ferry landing facility will do, good or bad, to this little village that is trying to preserve its past at the same time it is reaching out for thousands of new tourists and millions of dollars in new commercial investments.
These groups are vying within the West Maui Business Assn. (WMBA) and the Lahaina Improvement Assn. for support. Which group wins is of more than routine interest to the people of Lahaina-can appreciably influence the state government's final decision on a ferry landing site.
If the Maui dock ends up at Lahaina, the interisland ferry could result in daily unloading on Front St. of 422-foot ships, each capable of carrying 1400 passengers and 300 cars. These are the specifications of the ships to be used by John Hulten's Hawaiian Inter-Island Ferry System, which seems to have the inside track in the race to create Hawaii's first modern ferry system.
Support for a ferry dock at the planned Lahaina small boat harbor was voted last week by directors of the WMBA.
However, the vote-in which all nine directors attending voted in favor-was described as "tentative".
A WMBA meeting is to be held Jan. 5 at which directors are to take a "final" vote on the question. All association members will be urged to attend to offer their ideas to the directors.
Voting in favor of an interisland ferry dock at Lahaina last week, were Directors Charlie Burger, Ron Kondo (also a Maui representive to the state legislature), Alan Freeland, Fran Hinton, Hazel Mahoe, Tim Mitchell, George Takeuchi, Bob McDonald and Paul Myers. These directors, of course, will have the option to change their vote at the Jan. 5 meeting.
Myers provided the same adamant defense of the Lahaina dock that he has offered for at least the past year.
The ferry coming to Lahaina would add "class, people and fun" to the town, Myers told the group. It would be "colorful and beautiful", and would not cause any great amount of traffic congestion.
He also pointed out that selection of the proposed new yacht harbor, as the dock site of the interisland ferry, could result in speeding up construction of the harbor. The new harbor is to be built at the foot of Papalaua St., across Front St. from the Lahaina Shopping Center.
A similar ferry system operating between Florida and Nassau works beautifully, Myers told directors at the Wednesday meeting.
It was a different situation the next day at a meeting of the Lahaina Improvement Assn. when Myers, chairman of the organization, brought up the topic of the ferry. Several members made it clear they have reservations about a Lahaina dock.
Peter Sandborn said ferry landing facilities in the Seattle area include "a lot of ugly looking space".
Phil Gallishaw said he felt the Lahaina waterfront could not provide the amount of space needed for terminal activities.
According to Gallishaw, he sought information from the Hulton organization on dock facilities, and "all we got was a young salesman who wanted to sell us stock in the ferry".
The answers that Hulton did not provide, he said, are "answers that are vital to an endorsement by this West Maui group".
At Wednesday's meeting, State Rep. Ron Kondo urged the business association to come to some decision.
"If we want to do something," he said, "we'd better make up our minds one way or another...I have a feeling it (the dock) is going to end up in Kihei, and they'll say, 'Look, you didn't tell us what you wanted'."
Kondo said the State now has $880,000 to use in building a Maui ferry landing. He said the State is hiring a consulant to seek out a site.
Buck Quayle at the Maui Lahaina Sun bureau circa 1970
Reporter/Photographer Buck Quayle in 1971 in Maui with the Cartagenian in the background
Another Day At The Office Haleakala National Park