Tourists often ask my husband who drives taxi and does tours, “Can you take me downtown?” hoping to see some quaint shops and walk around and do some sightseeing.
Well, “downtown” Lihue doesn’t really give you much of a quaint feeling. We have the museum, some restaurants, county, state and office buildings, a “park” (where the homeless have quite visibly taken over with drinking, sleeping, parking and hanging out on the tables and benches), service stations, banks and way too many empty buildings. That is pretty much downtown. Not too attractive, if you ask me. In addition, Lihue also has a main street which features parked cars when traffic is rapidly moving toward them, and sometimes the moving traffic does not realize that the vehicle is parked — very dangerous — but that’s another letter.
In Kapaa, however, it is very evident where downtown really is. It also has a nice thing going on with its First Saturday event which is rapidly becoming quite the happening for tourists and residents alike. Yes, they do have traffic issues, but they also have a bypass road for residents anxious to avoid the hoopla. Still, there is more planning they could do to alleviate that problem further.
Lihue, on the other hand, appears to have a plethora of issues that seems to plague its development in order to make downtown appealing. It was an awesome thing to hear the sound of music and laughter the other night as the Grove Farm Museum train yard opened its gates to the public, attracting locals, visitors and vendors to their event. I believe this is the third or fourth time they have had this event. The attendance is rapidly growing, and I read that some 800 people attended this past Sunday’s event. What I glean from this is that there is a public desire for more fun things to do in this area.
What are the issues in making Lihue a bit more attractive? Friday nights at the shopping mall appear to draw the younger set who walk around, get silly and are just being teenagers. There are some shoppers, however, the teenagers far outnumber them. I know there is still considerably more that can be done to fulfill the desire of real fun and a nice leisurely walk looking into shops and sitting down watching “happy” happen. I believe what we need is a real plan for change in downtown Lihue.
I know there’s a plan somewhere but its creators may have had other things in mind when creating it and not so much an inviting plan. Though engineers and planners are qualified to create changes, sometimes they miss the “inviting” factor. I believe we need someone who has a gift to see such changes. I believe this someone must have the time, patience and vision to see these things come to fruition, someone whose desire is to see Lihue beaming with life and aloha.
I love Lihue and Kauai and would like to see some feasible plan materialize so that Lights on Rice Street is not the only event that brings people and vendors into Lihue once a year, but something that would also draw in year-round tenants to fill the empty buildings and make Lihue look more alive and be a place where it is fun to take a nice evening walk.
Annie Crain is a resident of Lihue.