Consultant unveils North Shore Path report

LIHU‘E — If Kapa‘a has it, why can’t the North Shore have it too? The North Shore Path, a project to connect North Shore communities through a path similar to Kapa‘a’s Ke Ala Hele Makalae path, is gaining momentum.

Ben Wellborn, from Landmark Consulting Services, said 97 percent of North Shore residents who responded to a recent survey want a bike/pedestrian path on the North Shore.

“Overwhelmingly, most respondents felt that this was a more than worthwhile discussion to have,” he said at the Kaua‘i County Council meeting Wednesday.

Wellborn was the project manager of North Shore Alternatives Report, an 88-page document outlining alternatives for a network of bicycle and pedestrian paths to connect communities in Kilauea, Princeville and Hanalei.

“This is not intended to be wider shoulders and people walking and riding down the existing roadways,” he said. “It’s much like the Ke Ala Hele Makalae on the Eastside of the island, where it is a separate multi-use walking and biking path as far from the road as possible.”

In all places, there is probably more than one way to get from A to B, he said, and the report just puts those alternatives on the table for discussion.

“In this report we are not saying that these are the routes, we are just taking all the constraints that exist … and with that information we are suggesting where the path of least resistance would be,” Wellborn said. “How do you thread the needle through all of the conditions that exist and find a way to get from one place to another?”

The report is a starting point intended to engage the community members and key players in developing the project, he said.

The comprehensive report proposes a primary path between Kilauea and Hanalei with alternate paths, road-shares and path tributaries.

The end goal of the project, Wellborn said, is to create connectivity while still keeping North Shore’s character of a rural community.

One of the circumstances on the North Shore Path that gives the project a “fairly optimistic” outlook is that there are very few large landowners on the North Shore, he said.

“You can actually make a connection between Kilauea and Hanalei with the participation of about eight large landowners,” Wellborn said.

Council Chair Jay Furfaro said there are lots of concerns in the community regarding cultural and historical sites, more specifically the ancient lo‘i, or taro fields, in Hanalei, dating back to ninth century.

The report identifies several cultural and historic sites, but Wellborn said he chose not to talk about them because he wants the community, including kupuna, to provide input regarding those types of sites.

Kapa‘a resident Glenn Mickens has been consistent in criticizing the Kapa‘a path, and on Wednesday his stance on the proposed North Shore Path was no different.  He said alternate roads are a top priority on Kaua‘i, rather than bike/pedestrian paths.

He said county officials reported last year that the existing 6.8 miles of the Kapa‘a path cost $30.2 million — about $4.4 million per mile. By comparison, a repaved road costs roughly $250,000 per mile.

 By the time the 23.8 miles of the Eastside path are finished, it will cost more than $105 million, according to Mickens.

“Would the taxpayers rather have good roads to drive on with alternate routes to get from point A to B or a multi-use path that will probably never get finished?” he said.

Councilman Tim Bynum said the figures provided by Mickens are higher than usual because there are four bridges on the completed portion of the Kapa‘a path.

“A mile that has a bridge costs a heck of a lot more than a mile that doesn’t have a bridge,” Bynum said.

He also thanked Mickens for constantly questioning the Kapa‘a path, because his criticism has made county officials more cautious while developing the project.

“Whether you like it or not, you are supporting us in making a better path,” Bynum told Mickens.

The public will have a chance to provide input when the project is unveiled at the Princeville Clubhouse May 15 at 6:30 p.m.

Visit www.nspath.kauaistyle.com for more information or to download the entire report.

• Léo Azambuja, staff writer, can be reached at 245-3681 (ext. 252) or lazambuja@ thegardenisland.com.

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