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County Solutions and Innovation Blog​​
December 11
Supporting Coastal Tourism

Restoring Coastal Habitats for Resilient Coastal Economies Web Series – Part 3​

Written by Jen Horton​, NACo Program Manager.

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Waikiki Beach, located in Honolulu County, Hawaii, is a popular tourist destination.

The “Restoring Coastal Habitats for Resilient Coastal Economies” web series provides coastal county leaders and coastal managers with an overview of how environmental restoration initiatives can help strengthen the ongoing vitality of coastal economies. The four-part series will highlight examples from counties that are pursuing coastal restoration projects to: 

Each blog post will provide case studies, resources and funding opportunities that relate to each topic area.

Today’s post explores how environmental restoration efforts can help support coastal tourism

The tourism industry is a major local industry for many coastal counties. In addition to the millions of recreational fishers, more than 77 million Americans participate annually in recreational boating, and 80 million Americans participate in non-pool outdoor swimming in the United States annually. A vibrant local tourism industry requires clean coastal waters, beaches and a healthy coastal ecosystem that produces abundant fish and wildlife.

Waikiki Beach in Honolulu exemplifies the impact the tourism industry has on coastal economies. No single industry dominates Hawaii as much as tourism, which serves as the largest employer, revenue producer and growth sector for the state. Waikiki Beach tourism-related activities account for eight percent of Hawaii’s gross state product, provide 11 percent of all civilian jobs and amount to 12 percent of state and local tax revenue. These statistics suggest that environmental protection of Hawaii’s coastlines and ocean resources must be an important priority for maintaining a thriving economy in Hawaii. 

Community-Based Restoration of the Waikiki Marine Life Conservation District

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Volunteers take part in a clean-up event on Waikiki Beach as part of Earth Day 2013.

Hawaii was spurred into action to address Waikiki Beach erosion when a study showed that if its coastline continued eroding away, there would be an annual loss in tourism revenues of $2 billion and tax revenues of $150 million.

The University of Hawaii, with support from various local, state and federal partners, developed a community engagement program to inspire and facilitate community stewardship in the Waikiki Marine Life Conservation District, a 76-acre protected area at the Diamond Head end of Waikiki Beach. Program activities have focused on restoring the health of Waikiki’s vulnerable coral reefs by establishing “Reef Watch Waikiki,” a community-based coastal monitoring program and “Ocean Awareness Training,” an ocean literacy certification program. These programs have successfully established a network of dedicated community supporters who have actively participated in trainings, workshops and educational events to promote ocean stewardship among stakeholders in the Waikiki community. Considering the economic importance of tourism in Waikiki Beach, these restoration and educational programs represent an important investment in the ongoing health of Hawaii’s natural assets, which provide the basis of its most lucrative industry.

North Borrow Lake Restoration Area

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The Indian River Lagoon in Brevard County, Florida.

Brevard County, Florida pursued an environmental restoration initiative to restore 9.3 acres of wetland in its Pine Island Conservation Area (PICA), a 950-acre conservation area that provides a number of tourism activities, including hiking, biking, horseback riding, paddling and fishing.  As a result of soil and water erosion, PICA’s Indian River Lagoon has experienced a 90 percent loss of its salt marshes overtime. In an effort to address the environmental degradation of this popular recreational and tourist area, Brevard County sought to reintroduce native wildlife and plant habitats in the area.  Environmental restoration activities included:

  • Clearing the site of exotic and invasive vegetation 
  • Planting native salt marsh vegetation
  • Re-grading the area to its historic elevations, and
  • Installing culverts to restore hydrology flow. 

Brevard County’s restoration initiative has benefited local tourism by enhancing the hiking trails and recreational areas around the project site to provide more opportunities for recreational fishing and access to local wetlands on the hiking trails. 

Restoration Grant Opportunity

Counties can click here​ to apply for the next round of Five Star and Urban Waters Restoration Program funding, or contact Jen Horton (​) for more details.

Stay tuned for the fourth and final installment of the “Restoring Coastal Habitats for Resilient Coastal Economies” web series that will overview examples of restoration initiatives to create and retain coastal jobs


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