HANAPEPE — Judy Page said she is still surprised at times by how much Hanapepe has changed over the last decade, when she first moved to the island’s biggest small town.
“It used to be absolutely dead — totally and completely dead on weekdays,” Page said. “There’s still a lot of people who would probably say that half the stores were closed but there still were half that were open. Now, it’s more lively and there’s a lot of things that are going on.”
At issue, however, is how to modernize and improve the town’s main street without jeopardizing the area’s historical nature, which has appeared in “The Thorn Birds,” a short-lived TV mini-series, “Flight of the Intruder,” and “Lilo and Stitch.”
It is a question that, Hanapepe Cafe Owner Andrea Kaohi said, has elicited divided opinions from business owners and residents.
“For years I’ve lived here, and people come in and they say, ‘Wow, this town is great. Now I want to change it,’ but how do we not change this town,” said Kaohi, who has lived and worked in Hanapepe for the past 18 years. “How do we improve it for the better but keep that funky edge, that real town edge?”
County officials say they are hoping to find some middle ground by hosting two community workshops and meetings over the next three days that will determine what improvements are needed on Hanapepe Road.
“You’re on the ground, you’re here every day, so you can let us know what you experience,” County Engineering Chief Michael Moule told a group of nearly a dozen residents and business owners who gathered Monday at the Hanapepe Hawaiian Congregational Church for a two-hour walking study along Hanapepe Road. “We can look at it and see what we think might happen but we don’t see it the way you see it — we don’t experience it the way you do.”
Deputy County Engineer Lyle Tabata said Hanapepe Road initially came up on the county’s list of resurfacing projects nearly four years ago.
But a planning policy passed by the Kauai County Council at that time required county officials to consider Complete Streets concepts — street designs that facilitate all modes of transportation — before any significant road work is done.
That put the project on the backburner.
Page said she appreciates how officials are now looking at the bigger picture and adding the town’s overall development into the equation.
“I like the fact that it’s holistic — they’re going to look at the town in terms of the businesses, in terms of the people who live, work and shop here, and in terms of everybody who is here and uses the town, and what would make it the best,” Page said.
One challenge that the community faces, Moule said, is the incongruous nature of walkways along Hanapepe Road.
“We have a fair amount of width for a walkway, it’s just allocated in somewhat odd ways,” Moule pointed out.
Mona “Bebe” Nicholas, who owns Kauai Fine Arts near the intersection of Ko and Hanapepe Roads, said people regularly speed down the hill toward the town.
“People come down the hill too fast, and sometimes, we have animals, chickens and just people crossing,” Nicholas said, adding a signal might be warranted.
Two other public meetings will be from 5:30 to 7:30 tonight and Thursday at Hanapepe Hawaiian Congregational Church.