HANALEI — Runners and walkers in Saturday’s Haena to Hanalei run should notice something missing: traffic.
For the first time in the event’s 35-year history, Kuhio Highway will be closed.
“I know it’s going to be an adjustment for our community that lives out there,” said Mary Mair, race coordinator and secretary of the Hanalei Canoe Club which puts on the annual fundraiser.
The Kauai Police Department will be closing Kuhio Highway from Mahimahi Road to the end of the highway at Kee Beach. Weke Road will also be closed, from Aku Road to Anae Road, and open to one lane of alternating traffic from Aku Road to Blackpot Beach.
The change should be good for participants in the eight-mile race, who sometimes have to weave around vehicles while making their way from the starting line at Kee Beach to the finish line near Blackpot Beach. It might not be so good for residents who live north of Mahimahi Road and need to drive on the highway, which will be closed from 5:30 a.m. to 9 a.m.
“We’re a tourist island, some people need to work at four, five o’clock in the morning,” said Waley Hedlesky, 56, of Anahola, a vendor who sells coconuts at the Haena Beach Park.
Hedlesky said the road closure could be a problem for some. She said visitors aren’t always aware of what’s happening on island, including road closures, because they are on vacation.
“People may have to make plane flights,” Hedlesky said. “What if there’s an emergency?”
Lynne Sergeant of Haena, self-employed and a nail technician, said the closure would be an inconvenience.
“But I understand,” she said. “I plan my schedule accordingly, because that’s just what you’ve got to do.”
“You would think they could leave one road open,” she added.
It was a necessary change, officials said, due to the rising numbers of runners and walkers who sign up for the popular run, and increasing traffic, much of which is attributed to tourists headed to the North Shore beaches or the Kalalau Trail.
“When the event began 35 years ago, it did not require a road closure permit from KPD. But due to the fact that the event has grown considerably over the years, and given the location of the run, it was necessary to close the roadway to ensure the safety of walkers/runners,” wrote county spokeswoman Sarah Blane.
Roughly 800 runners, including visitors from throughout the U.S., are expected to participate in the event, which includes both an 8-mile, a 5K course and a youth run.
Walkers start Haena to Hanalei at 6 a.m., followed by runners at 7. The Haena to Hanalei run is a fundraiser for the canoe club’s youth paddling program.
Participants should be sure to arrive early. One change for runners and walkers is they won’t be able to drive to the starting line, but will have to take one of the free shuttles beginning at 4:45 a.m. to get from Blackpot Beach to Kee.
Mair said while most feedback to the road closure has been positive, there was concern expressed by some North Shore residents, worried about how it might affect those in Hanalei, Haena and Wainiha needing to travel by vehicle.
She said efforts to alert the public included public service announcements, a flashing sign with the information in Hanalei, and calling hotels so they could alert guests.
“We apologize for any inconvenience this may cause our friends, families, supporters, and visitors and we ask for your patience and understanding during these early morning hours,” a press release said.
Sheila Dunn, a Hanalei resident, said the road closure shouldn’t be a problem if people plan ahead.
“People who have to work just need to accommodate their schedules,” she said.
Information: Mary Mair, 639-4048, or visit www.hanaleicanoeclub.org.
Staff reporter Monique Rowan contributed to this report.