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Erosion on Maui washes away gravestones

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WAILUKU >> Rapidly increasing erosion on the Maui shoreline has threatened a cemetery temple building and swept away close to 100 gravestones.

The Mantokuji Soto Zen Mission of Paia temple, established in 1906, holds more than 600 grave markers in its cemetery along the coast of Mantokuji Bay, the Maui News reported.

Climate change coupled with stronger surf has claimed at least 3 to 4 acres of the property over the years.

“The shoreline has been a threat, but just in the last three years, the ocean has been really bad,” temple member Cathy Murayama said. “It’s always slowly creeping up on us, but now we can see it 20 yards away from the kitchen, and maybe not even that. It’s like at our back door, and more than ever we feel the urgency to do something.”

Temple and community members have recovered gravestones along the shoreline and piled them up in the middle of the cemetery. But community members said they fear the temple itself could be swept away.

A planning consultant was hired last month to research viable solutions to protect the temple, cemetery and minister’s residence.

“We’ve had to hire someone else to help us with the shoreline erosion (because) in the next decade it’s going to affect the temple structure itself if we don’t do anything,” temple member Eric Moto said. “It’s either going to be some kind of erosion mitigation, or we’ll move the structure further inland. We’re faced with a daunting task either way.”

Preventing further erosion and protecting the temple could cost millions of dollars, Murayama said.

“We’re working really hard right now to preserve and protect the temple, plus the spirituality,” Murayama said. “We’re the only Soto mission on Maui, so if the church wasn’t there we wouldn’t have all the history, and everything our parents and grandparents built would be gone.”

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