KOLOA — With its state designation in tow, an almost 20-mile stretch of South Shore roads may soon become a national scenic byway. This could mean access to new federal funding and a boon for businesses in the area along with other community benefits.
The Holo Holo Koloa Scenic Byway has been accepted by the Hawai‘i Scenic Byways Program and Kaua‘i is only the second island in the state to have its project become a nominee for the National Scenic Byways, said Lenny Rapozo, director of the county Parks and Recreation Department.
“Welcome to the Park of Kaua‘i,” he told a crowd Thursday at a public workshop hosted by National Scenic Byways program experts at the Koloa Neighborhood Center. “All of a sudden, the whole island is a park.”
More than four dozen people representing various groups, schools and the county were on hand to learn more about what it will take to secure the national designation.
Teddy Blake — leader of Hui O Malama O Koloa, the spearheading organization for Holo Holo Koloa Scenic Byway — said the area which garnered the state designation on May 19 covers a distance of 19.5 miles spanning Maluhia Road at the Kaumuali‘i Highway intersection, covering the Po‘ipu Bypass Road, the roads along the coastline to Spouting Horn and the Western Bypass Road, including the Po‘ipu Roundabout.
Rapozo said the project is in line with Mayor Bernard Carvalho Jr.’s Holo Holo 2020 plan because one of its goals is to maintain the unique character of towns across the island while increasing commerce.
“Koloa has the best visitor infrastructure and being designated a scenic byway will take care of the community, the people, as well as its historical and cultural aspects,” Rapozo said. “We can use this area as a pilot project because Kaua‘i has other areas which can fit into the Scenic Byways program.”
Rob Balmes, a byways specialist with America’s Byways Resource Center, said the concept of the program is to make people want to come to visit based on “intrinsic qualities” offered while preserving the archeological, cultural, historical and undisturbed natural features of the area.
“During our tour, we lost count (of ‘intrinsic qualities’) after 130,” Blake said.
Balmes said a “byway” is a public road having special scenic, archaeological, historical, recreational, natural or cultural qualities through legislation or some other official declaration.
“A byway is a corridor, which connects people, their stories and their land,” he said.
Balmes was joined by Dave Zevenbergen, the state coordinator of the Hawai‘i Scenic Byways program, Robert Kull of the Hawai‘i Scenic Byways consultant team and Kashmira Reid, vice president of Lyon Associates, in providing information to help the Holo Holo Koloa Scenic Byway move forward.
If the national designation is received, Hui O Malama O Koloa can apply for federal funding related to it.
The America’s Byways program touts 150 National Scenic Byways in 46 states with 42 new designations awarded in 2009, Balmes said.
Ka‘u and North Kohala on the Big Island and Wai‘anae on O‘ahu join Koloa as byway nominees. Thursday’s workshop was one of four scheduled by the National Scenic Byways experts.
The Hawai‘i Scenic Byways Program has made great strides since the pilot byway project in 2009, when the Old Mamalahoa Highway was designated the state’s first scenic byway.
In 2010, the state Department of Transportation designated “Royal Footsteps Along the Kona Coast,” better known as Ali‘i Drive in Kailua-Kona, as a Hawai‘i Scenic Byway.
“The possibilities are mind-boggling,” Zevenbergen said. “It’s all dependent on all of the efforts of the volunteers. This is a great program.”
Debbie Lindsey, the principal of Koloa School, said the project is livable and sustainable.
“I get excited about a program which enhances what is there,” she said. “It’s always exciting.”
• Dennis Fujimoto, photographer and staff writer, can be reached at 245-3681 (ext. 253) or dfujimoto@ thegardenisland.com.