On Wednesday morning, two flatbed tow trucks hauled seven vehicles that had been towed to the paved highway several miles beyond Ulupalakua Ranch, according to the state Department of Land and Natural Resources. Tow operators will make the trip from Kanaio dozens of times until all of the vehicles are removed and transported to a salvage yard.
“People have been abandoning vehicles in an area about one-fourth mile off the pavement and it’s been happening for six to seven years,” said Daniel Ornellas of the DLNR Land Division, who organized the cleanup with Maui County, Maui police, the tow company and personnel from the DLNR Division of Forestry and Wildlife. “We received multiple complaints from surrounding landowners. It’s going to take the better part of three weeks to get all the wrecks out of there.”
Seven workers from the DOFAW Maui Branch began towing cars and trucks, one at a time, up a steep dirt road on Monday. They placed 25 of them in an empty area next to the highway to stage for the tow trucks. Workers are using a front-end loader to both crush the cars and to load them onto the flatbeds.
Eventually the land is slated to be transferred from the Land Division to DOFAW, according to Shane De Mattos, a wildlife biologist with DOFAW.
“We wanted to get it cleaned up as we begin to consider how to restore it for conservation purposes, which could include public hunting,” De Mattos said. “Those decisions are down the road, but it’s good to see these eyesores removed to improve conditions for plants, wildlife and the environment overall.”
The removal project is expected to cost upwards of $300,000 in state and county funds, including $75,000 from Maui County, according to a DLNR spokesperson. Both the county and DLNR are taking steps to put in barriers to prevent more cars from ending up in the existing heap of twisted, rusting metal, plastic and rubber.
“Going forward if anyone abandons a vehicle here, we will take steps to identify the owners and hold them accountable,” De Mattos said.