Fern Grotto hammered again

Even before workers had a chance to fully repair damages to the docking pier at the Fern Grotto along the Wailua River, another intense storm Saturday night and Sunday morning sent flood waters rushing past the popular visitor attraction, adding to what is already a substantial pile of debris.

Earlier flooding took out around two-thirds of the pier, and what was remaining of it did fairly well during last weekend’s storm, said Kamika Smith, general manager of Smith’s Motor Boat Service, Inc.

But as bad as the physical damage has been, Smith laments more about the business closures’ impact on employees, he said.

“The tough part is all our employees no more work,” said Smith, who has been offering employees vacation time, other work, even loans, in order to sustain them through the continuous rains.

“It’s been a rough month,” Smith said in a telephone interview.

“Since the beginning of the month, we’ve had to cancel the boat tours to the Fern Grotto on seven days, and another five days have operated on a limited schedule due to flooding part of the day,” Smith said in an e-mail.

“Mother Nature has really taken aim on our little island once again,” he said.

“As long as we can go, we go,” he said. “We’ve been majorly flooded.”

Members of a state Department of Land and Natural Resources Division of State Parks crew had repaired about 90 percent of the pier and landing which was destroyed at the Wailua River Fern Grotto, Peter Young, DLNR and state Board of Land and Natural Resources chair reported in a daily media briefing last week.

Work continues.

Smith’s Boats employees assisted by hauling a load of lumber up river. A very large volume of logs and debris washed into the area, and still remains, Young said.

“We are seeking contractors to remove the debris. This effort is hampered since the two (DLNR-owned) raft-type barges which were in the park were destroyed in the flood,” said Young.

“As the area is only accessible via the river, a new craft must be built or brought in to haul equipment up to the Fern Grotto and remove the debris,” he said.

Staff members of the DLNR will now pursue getting a contractor to remove the vegetation and debris.

The federal Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) contractor has inspected the damage to the new walkway and railing, Young said.

The tours to the Fern Grotto have resumed, weather-permitting, as debris has been cleared from one of the walk-ways to the grotto, Young continued.

A large volume of water and mud covers the right or return leg of the trail system. The water continues to flow into the valley from the spill-way of the reservoir in the agricultural area above.

“We will evaluate the condition when the flow subsides.”

The new ADA walkway and handrail at the Fern Grotto has sustained damage, including settling of some footings, and will require repairs, he added.


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