HANALEI — The Haena State Park of the future could include controlled entry, a 900-person daily visitor cap and beach access by way of an elevated boardwalk.
More than 200 people gathered at the Hanalei School cafeteria Wednesday to hear Kimi Yuen, senior associate with contractor PBR Hawaii, explain the vision mapped out in a plan geared at renewing the park’s emphasis on Haena’s cultural and historical significance while resolving issues pertaining to large crowds, lack of parking and too much traffic.
“Know that everything recommended has to do with educating visitors or providing places for cultural activities for the community to come together there again,” Yuen said.
With roughly 2,000 daily visitors, “the end of the road” is one of Hawaii’s busiest parks. Within its 66 acres, the park contains valuable cultural and ecological resources, as well as the Kalalau trailhead, gateway to the Napali Coast State Wilderness Park.
The master plan, assembled by the state Department of Land and Natural Resources, is based on years of research and public input guided by a community advisory committee, a team of consultants, contractor PBR Hawaii and DLNR’s Division of State Parks. It also includes a draft Environmental Impact Statement.
DLNR is seeking public input on the proposal during a 45-day public comment period ending Sept. 8. The document is available for review at http://oeqc.doh.hawaii.gov/Shared%20Documents/Environmental_Notice/current_issue.pdf
“The point is, nobody likes it the way it is now and it’s just going to get worse,” said Carl Berg, chairman of the Surfrider Foundation’s Kauai Chapter and a member of the community advisory committee. “So rather than sit around and complain about it, let’s do something about it.”
Central to the plan is a proposal to limit the number of people who enter the park. A 900-person visitor cap would reduce the number of daily visitors by about half.
“I know the concern is about how the locals are going to get to the park,” Yuen said. “Because it was federal monies that was used to create the park, they’re not allowed to discriminate between residents and non-residents, so we have to be really creative about how we do this and how we still let locals into the park.”
Yuen suggested that residents who wish to use the park without restriction band together to form a volunteer group that cares for the park. Volunteer groups are exempt from the daily visitor cap and would not be turned away regardless of how many people are in the park at any given time.
Also exempt from the daily visitor cap would be cultural practitioners, hikers and hunters with valid permits, special halau or loi work groups, educational groups, lawaia and cemetery caretakers.
The main purpose of the proposed gate that would facilitate controlled park entry is to limit the number of cars at the park and prohibit cars from parking there after hours, Yuen said.
“It’s not going to be a fenced-in park,” Yuen said. “If you want to walk or bike in, you will be able to do that.”
Yuen suggested that residents might want to engage the hotel and visitor industries and encourage industry groups to fund a shuttle that would transport visitors to the park to cut down on traffic and parking issues.
Yuen said the proposed 900-person visitor cap represents a compromise.
The 32-member committee formed to help develop the plan called for a daily visitor cap of about 500 people, Yuen said. In 1993, the average daily visitor count was about 350 people, she said.
Whatever the number that’s settled on, it can be adjusted over time, Yuen said.
An education center geared at encouraging public respect of the park’s natural and spiritual resources would become the park’s new point of entry.
“This is not Disneyland,” Yuen said. “This is not a playground. It’s something very sacred.”