KOKEE — Friday’s rain in Waimea Canyon didn’t stop hikers from taking on the Alaka‘i Swamp Trail. For many of them, the boardwalk was what made it worth the walk.
“It was pretty muddy, so the boardwalk helped, especially with the little ones,” said Mike Lewis, who is visiting from Chicago with his wife Sonja and their two children, Grace, 4, and baby Hannah.
Grace got tired of trudging through the mud, Mike said, but she got excited when they got to the boardwalk.
“He told her that it was a bridge,” Sonja said. “She got excited about that.”
Hiking through the Alaka‘i Swamp without the boardwalk wouldn’t be a problem if he was by himself, Mike added. But with a family the boardwalk makes things easier, he said.
The family ended up turning around about a mile down the trail. Even though the boardwalk was intact and usable, the mud was accumulating and the trail was becoming steep.
“I would walk along the boardwalk even if I was just by myself and there wasn’t any mud,” Sonja said. “It’s really nice.”
The state Department of Land and Natural Resources is in the process of a $500,000 project to replace the rotting boardwalk. Much of it is still double-planked wood topped with chicken-wire, but parts of it have been replaced with a single-plank plastic lumber.
The structural plastic lumber is anticipated to be more durable than the original wooden boardwalk, which has deteriorated in many places. The rotting wood has left large gaps in the boardwalk.
In some places, the walkway is pieced together with precarious boards lying on top of each other in a crisscrossed fashion that just barely allows hikers to navigate the deep mud puddles.
So all the double planks eventually will be replaced with a single-planked boardwalk. To make it less slippery, DLNR’s Division of Forestry and Wildlife is experimenting with a few different methods.
“There were three different types of anti-slip (material) we laid down: one with a wood grain embedded into the boards, one with epoxy and grit mixed into the epoxy and one with epoxy with sand over it for anti-slip,” said Dan Smith, Na Ala Hele Kauai trails specialist with Kauai branch of DOFAW.
The project will take several years to complete.