The Old Paia Lime Kiln

In ancient times, Kapuka'ulua ("the 'ulua fishing hole"), was a famous fishing spot. A large heiau (Hawaiian temple) overlooked the ocean at Kapuka'ulua Point (near where entry road into Baldwin Beach Park meets the current shoreline). Due to shoreline erosion and past tsunami conditions, the heiau's remains are now submerged offshore.

Another heiau watched over the shoreline from the nearby rise of Pu'u Nene. (That hill no longer exists. The cinders that made up the hill were used for road construction and other building needs.) The HC&S mill later appropriated the name of this hill as the name for its sugar cane mill several miles away.

Still another heiau rose on the banks of Kailua Gulch which borders the Spreckelsville area.

It's believed that Kapuka'ulua supported several fishing villages along the shore and nearby mauka lands. Archaeologists have discovered evidence of ancient human burials in the sand dunes between 'Baby Beach' and Baldwin Beach. Life-long residents referred to it as 'Bones Beach' when they were young. A 1973 newspaper article featured a front page photo of a full skeleton unearthed by tourists.

Maui Agriculture Co., run by Alexander and Baldwin, constructed the Paia Lime Kiln in 1907. For decades afterwards, sand and coral were excavated from the beach to manufacture hydrated lime for plantation uses, and to build roads and airstrips. Railroad tracks and a roadway ran through the area. Portions of the old asphalt roadbed are sometimes visible on the beach today.

Until the mid-1980's, the kiln manufactured and supplied dry hydrated lime to sugar factories and others on Maui. During World War I, the plantation converted the lime kiln to cement production which continued until the war-time shortage eased. The Portland-type cement manufactured at Paia during World War I was of high quality. An article in the July 27, 1951 Honolulu Advertiser reported, "Paia cement, after thirty years in the Haiku Ditch, is still in excellent condition."

During World War II, the military need for more cement induced Hawaiian Gas Products (the forerunner of Gaspro) to buy and assemble the Paia concrete-making equipment at the site of the Waianae Lime and Cement Company on Oahu. The production of hydrated lime continued at the Paia site.

The lime kiln withstood the infamous April Fool's Day tsunami of 1946 that badly damaged dozens of structures in the Spreckelsville and Paia beach areas. The same tsunami also destroyed a USO recreation hall built on the dunes during World War II.

Erosion was a concern even back then. In 1954, geologist Doak Cox, contracted by the Hawaii Sugar Planters Association, issued a report titled, "The Spreckelsville Beach Problem." HC&S commissioned the study in hopes of increasing the output of the Lime Kiln. The company wondered how much sand they could remove from the beaches without adversely affecting them.

Cox quantified historic amounts of sand removed and noted beach rock marking former shorelines (such as at Baby Beach). His report recommended an end to the sand removal from "industrial supply beach" at Spreckelsville and "lime kiln supply beach" at Kapuka`ulua-the rarely spoken proper place name. HC&S ignored Cox's recommendations. In fact, they continued to operate the lime kiln for the next 25 years.

Meanwhile, shoreline erosion at the nearby Baldwin Beach continued. Concerned environmentalists pointed out that one major cause is the boulder revetment, the sea wall that once protected the lime kiln and which was left in place when it shut down. Seawalls and revetments may "fix" the shoreline, they tell us, but only at the expense of adjacent beach systems.

The abandoned Paia lime kiln site was sold in 1992 by the company to a private land-owner whose attempts to develop the property led to years of public outcry and resentment as well as litigation and legal actions by and against the County of Maui.

Through it all, the County government wrestled with long-term community planning needs, trying to balance individual property rights with the various concerns about environmental issues and the impact any development has on the surrounding community. The old Paia Lime Kiln property (renamed Montana Beach by its new owners) got caught up in the zoning changes mandated by the revision of the Wailuku-Kahului plans. One of the three sets of owners in the Montana Beach Condominium limited liability corporation built a 2,500 square-foot, custom-designed house - the Holland house - on their share of the property using fine-quality materials. The Hollands were not allowed to live in the house they had made and finally gave it up.

By the time the dust settled in 2008, the County of Maui had purchased the three lots that made up the 5.5 acre property for a total of $10.5 million. Many hundreds of man-hours and thousands of dollars had been spent on the various court cases, public meetings, and all the attendant hoo-hah.

There had been hope in the County government that the existing building could be used as a Maui Environmental Resource Center. The area is a treasure trove of historical and natural resources. That hope died as public opposition and the lawsuits dragged on and the owners and bureaucrats and all their lawyers argued.

The Montana Beach Holland House, built in 2001, was boarded up and sat empty for 11 years. It was announced in the June 27, 2012 Maui News that the Council had approved the sale of the now-derelict Holland house at auction. The aim of this move, according to the report, was to sell the materials of the building to recoup some of the cost of acquiring the property and to have the structure, which has become an attractive nuisance, removed from the beach at little or no additional cost.

The boulder revetment that shields the site from wave action and is one of the factors causing the erosion of the sand at one of the most popular family beaches on the island is still there.

Most of this content was taken from a 2012 article called 'The Old Paia Lime Kiln.'