The state Department of Land and Natural Resources has let contracts totaling more than $2.9 million for repairs and new construction at Haena State Park that will set in motion a long-term plan to substantially redo facilities in the Ke‘e Beach area.
At least four contracts have been awarded. All went to local firms.
Details of the imminent action by DLNR were contained in an internal email obtained by The Garden Island late Wednesday. On Thursday, DLNR issued a news release that included much, but not all, of the detail and observations in the email.
The email was received by more than three dozen people on Kauai, most of whom have been involved in development of the park master plan.
The email and news release both note that “repairs to damaged facilities and upgrades to make Haena State Park more resilient to future floods, as well as to address public safety and accessibility issues, will begin next week.”
DLNR did not respond to questions from TGI about how construction materials will be able to reach the park because of the closure of Kuhio Highway. Construction vehicles are using the roadway, but strict weight limits are in place. DOT also plans to begin a simultaneous project to repair or replace three bridges, which will be concurrent with the emergency repairs.
DOT has officially projected October for reopening of the highway, but the extent of the damage and engineering complexity of the repairs may result in further delay. The entire area is closed to non-residents under an emergency order signed by Mayor Bernard Carvalho Jr.
A community meeting with Alan Carpenter, the DLNR official tasked with implementing the park renovations, has been set for next Wednesday at Camp Naue in Haena. The meeting was scheduled at the request of the Hanalei-Haena Community Association. It will begin at 5:30 p.m.
The master plan that is being implemented will eventually cap park usage at 900 people per day and drastically restrict parking. An existing parking lot will be rebuilt and all parking on Kuhio Highway anywhere within the park will be prohibited.
The plan also envisions establishment of a shuttle service that would bring the bulk of visitors to the park, which would have an entrance gate to control access to such attractions as the beach and the Kalalau Trail.
Current plans are for the announced projects to be completed sometime in November. However, it remains uncertain if Kuhio Highway will be ready to reopen to normal traffic by then.
“Repairs of the damaged Kalalau Trail, consisting of washed-out trail sections, debris accumulation, and dense vegetation growth obscuring the trail route, will be initiated soon and we hope to have them completed in the same timeframe as the Haena park repairs,” according to the email and the Thursday news release.
The email said DLNR was “pressed into action by the current circumstances, which required us to encumber funds for this project very quickly or lose the opportunity.”
The email addressed to community leaders noted that “we do need to collectively consider the design for future improvements and phasing in the management recommendation,” meaning the master plan provisions that establish a new operating system for the park.
The contracts that have been let include:
w $2,240,000 for parking lot reconstruction, building a shuttle turnaround, creating the boardwalk and replacing a water line. The work will be done by Lihue-based Earthworks Pacific, Inc..
w $507,380 for repair and rehabilitation of two historically significant buildings. The work will be done by Waimea-based Kikiaola Construction.
w $67,800 for septic system and restroom repairs by Cushnie Construction, of Kalaheo.
w $87,673 for hazardous tree mitigation, by Garden Island Tree Care, of Kapaa.
The new details represent the first substantial fleshing out of how DLNR plans to put the new master plan in place. Before the disastrous April storm and flooding, it had been expected that implementation would have to be phased and gradual over a period of several years. However, after the storm damaged Kuhio Highway heavily and forced an indefinite closure of the highway to all but local traffic, DLNR officials sensed the creation of an opportunity to put as many of the provisions of the master plan into effect as possible.
The email and news release also described the damage done to Haena Beach State Park at a level of detail not previously made public. They read:
“At Haena, the concrete stream crossing at the park’s entrance had an 8 foot-wide section washed out along with the waterline servicing the park’s comfort station, showers and water fountains. Virtually the entire overflow parking area, surfaced with crushed coral, was washed away, and the end of the highway at Kee Beach supporting the lifeguard stand was undermined and partially collapsed.
“Large sections of the beach were washed out, and some large trees had their root systems affected. While the park’s restrooms survived relatively unscathed, the septic system, constructed wetland and waterline were damaged.”
Money to underwrite the improvements that have resulted will come from emergency funds that materialized after the storm.
Changes to the park will be highly visible and dramatic since vehicles other than those of emergency crews or occupied by disabled people will no longer be able to drive all the way into the park. The existing parking area has long been recognized as within a rockfall zone and some rock did hit the roadway during the April weather events.
A boardwalk will be constructed to move visitors over loi and other environmentally sensitive vegetation between the parking lot and the beach. Existing restroom facilities were rendered inoperable by the storm and must be heavily reconstructed.
Eventually, the plan envisions an online reservation system to control access to the park by tourists. The plan provisions may ultimately be backed up by posting of the last two miles of Kuhio Highway as a tow-away zone and increasing parking fines to as much as $235.
Separate access provisions will permit local residents to get into the park via a separate system. Operational details remain to be developed.
A complication, however, is that the park plan relies heavily on construction of a gate across the highway and an access control point. A temporary gate can be installed now because the highway and park are officially closed. However, under existing law, no state highway under DOT jurisdiction is permitted to be gated. To sidestep the provision, DLNR and DOT are reportedly negotiating over conveying the highway within the park to DLNR so it would pass to a different jurisdiction that is legal able to mandate gated entry.
“It remains to be seen whether we can leave the gate as part of the park management scheme when the disaster declaration is lifted and the park is ready to reopen,” the email cautioned.
The projects will use existing budgeted funds, which may be diverted from other purposes, as well as state emergency money that became available for storm recovery.
Allan Parachini is a Kilauea resident who writes occasionally for The Garden Island.