LIHUE — Kekai Powell, 11, was going to try and catch four big puffer fish that always come to steal his bait at Ahukini Pier this week, but he was disappointed when he found the boardwalk portion was blocked off.
“But if it’s for safety, that’s OK, We come here all the time — especially now, that football season is pau, and we live close by,” said Patrick Powell, Kekai’s dad, from Kapaia. “We either come here, or go to Poipu. Sometimes, we check out the other beaches, too — you know, exploring. It’s always nice to come here.”
Weak spots in the boardwalk are the reasons behind Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources Division of State Parks’ Jan. 11 decision to close access to the pier.
During that inspection, State Parks’ staff identified four spots, including two beams, that need to be replaced. The pier is built with three beans that the deck planking affix to, according to DLNR, and the inspection also revealed weak spots in the handrails where they fasten to the pole beams.
“Thus far we’ve had two contractors inspect so they can give us bids. We’re working on a third,” said Dan Dennison, spokesman for DLNR. “We informed many of the fishermen and we think the word will spread among that community.”
State Parks expects contractor bids by the end of the week for repairs. They estimate between three and four weeks to complete the job, and that allows for materials and scheduling.
Donna Texeira of Kekaha, who has been frequenting the area since she was a child with her family, now drops by Ahukini to do recycling.
“I didn’t know they closed it,” Texeira said. “I came to do recycling, but they have new owners so the place was closed. I come here quite a bit so I just came. Columbus Pimbol of Wailua is fishing, I was on the rocks getting opihi.”
Many local families and kupuna also visit Ahukini.
“A lot of the older people like coming here and we see some of them spending lots of time here, talking story, and some even fishing,” Texeira said.
The pier was built in 1920, along with a new breakwater at Ahukini, for transpacific Matson freighters and it’s the first port on Kauai where interisland vessels could tie directly to shore. That same year, Ahukini Terminal & Railway Co. was created. It operated a freight railroad that connected Ahukini with sugar plantations in Lihue, Kawaihau and Kilauea, as well as the Kapaa pineapple cannery.
Construction on Nawiliwili Harbor was completed in 1930 and at that time, interisland service to Ahukini stopped and freight began moving through Nawiliwili.
Matson modernized its fleet after World War II and the bigger ships moved over to Nawiliwili, leaving only tank barges to tie up at Ahukini Landing.
Ahukini closed as a port in 1950.