More updates today April 18, since yesterday’s town hall meeting here on Kauai plus an update from the State DLNR. At Beat of Hawaii we’ve had many questions asked and emotions expressed.
The highway north of Hanalei, and Haena state park is closed for ongoing repairs since last year’s epic flooding. That includes Kee Beach and the Kalalau trail. A plan has been proffered to open the road prior to the park actually being accessible. Does that make any sense? Chipper Wichman, President of National Tropical Botanic Gardens, which includes Haena’s Limahuli Gardens, said that “without facilities, these people are essentially going to a dead end. Where are they going to turn around?”
Beat of Hawaii readers, please chime in. Would you drive on this road before the park opens, when you can’t stop and will likely encounter hours of delays.
Seventy million dollars in federal funds could apparently be at risk if the highway does not reopen immediately as a public road. As Wichman pointed out, this is a huge issue and “it needs to happen in the next week.” US Senator Brian Schatz from Hawaii said he would help get to the bottom of the funding dilemma.
State DLNR said yesterday, “barring bad weather or unforeseen delays in repairs or new management implementation, Hā’ena State Park and the Kalalau Trail in the Nāpali Coast State Wilderness Park will reopen to visitors in early-to-mid June. The official reopening date will be announced in May.”
A reduction in the number of daily vehicles allowed in the park, from 2,000 to 900 per day is planned.
If the road does open on or about May 1, and until June (or whenever the park is ready), there will be restrictions in place to prevent visitor access to Haena. The manned checkpoint at Hanalei will remain open at that time, where visitors may be advised of delays or be discouraged from proceeding. Car rental companies will be disseminating warnings regarding the new regulations and ongoing issues.
Access, parking and transportation will be different than before. Wichman said “the county giving a million and a half dollars to establish a new shuttle that will really help remove cars off of the road is unprecedented.” Kauai Visitor Bureau executive director Sue Kanoho added, “we just don’t want that area to be abused like it was in the past…. There’s been a lot of erosion. So just like Haleakala and Hanauma Bay, we’re going to have to limit the people.”
Haena State Park environmental protection long overdue.
What is going to happen is a new management plan for access to the park. The goal is to greatly reduce the human impact on the park, given that unlimited access is clearly not sustainable. How changes will evolve are just starting to be revealed, and are of course subject to change. And there’s no way that this is not going to be controversial albeit necessary.
Reality is that it is not unusual to restrict entry to environmentally sensitive areas, no matter where they are located. Without doubt Kauai has been remiss in protecting its resources. Wichman said of the flooding, “this was divine intervention.” Others have noted that the coral reef has begun to regenerate since the flood related closure.
Beat of Hawaii visitor Dawn commented “it has been so disappointing to drive to the end of the road the last few years and not be able to park. I’m from Minnesota where we have the Boundary Waters canoe area…. Vehicals (sp) are restricted and even turned away when the park is full. A permit is required to enter the Boundary Waters with strict rules of what you can bring in, where you can camp, and where you can enter. Break these rules and you are fined and not permitted to enter again…. When we are blessed with a peice (sp) of paradise it is our responsibility to protect and treat that place with the respect it deserves, no matter the grumbling and inconvenience it may cause. I also wonder if… the more difficult it is to get there, the more aware we are that this is truly a special place.”
Here’s what visitors can expect from Hanalei to Haena.
1. An update from Hawaii DLNR is expected in May to advise on the reopening date for the park, parking, a new reservation system and more. The park is due to reopen in June barring any further delays (remember this is Kauai, however, where delays are the norm).
2. If the road opens prior to bridge repairs and parking, expect severe traffic delays. Work on repairs to the three small bridges that separate Haena from Hanalei will be ongoing. That is expected to cause major traffic delays until completed (estimated to be June or later).
3. New day parking regulations. Initially, posted no parking will be in effect for all of Haena State Park. Once park facilities are open, those will be lifted. We are awaiting more information on the parking system.
4. No overnight parking at Haena. There will no longer be overnight parking at Haena State Park. Permitted overnight Kalalau trail hikers can either be dropped off or use the upcoming park and ride shuttle service.
5. Increased parking fines. A minimum $200 fine will be in effect for illegal parking, up from $35. Illegal parking had been widespread prior to the road closure.
6. Parking enforcement. Tickets will be issued by uniformed officers of State DLNR and the Kauai Police Department. We expect enforcement to be intense.
7. Limited parking for surfing and fishing. That may be available in special zones but we still have not heard how that would work.
8. Tunnels beach. We still have not learned what the parking plan will be for Tunnels beach, which is directly adjacent to but not within Haena State Park. That has been an ongoing problem for years.
9. Limahuli Garden will remain closed until further notice and there is no estimated reopening date.
Park and ride shuttle service coming.
A new shuttle is set to begin in early June (or perhaps later) from Princeville to Kee Beach. That is due to start simultaneously with new parking at Haena, which will start operations with a capacity of 100 cars, by reservation only. Full-time Kauai residents, however, will have some access without prior reservation. How residency will be determined, we don’t know.
A park and ride facility is planned for Princeville. Perhaps at the shopping center or elsewhere since parking there is already a mess. That development is in process. Until then, park and ride may begin in Hanalei. Round trip tickets are to be $11 for visitors, $2 for Kauai residents, and those with bus pass, no charge.