HAENA — Gregg Kravitz did a double take when he cruised to the end of the road on Kauai’s North Shore on a recent drive after paddling at Hanalei Bay.
“The auxiliary parking area, it surprised me,” he said. “The new parking area is flat and level and better for cars, and there’s a little more structure to it.”
Smoothing out the parking area’s pits with gravel is a big chunk of the $75,000 improvement at Haena State Park.
The project took a little more than a week to complete. In addition to the maintenance of the parking lot, there will be some associated tree trimming/removal of ironwood trees adjacent to the parking area.
Kravitz helps maintain the first two miles of the Kalalau Trail to Hanakapiai Beach with Friends of the Kalalau Trail. He said when he’s working, he rarely hears complaints, but the grumblings he does hear are usually about parking.
“If there’s a complaint at the end of the road, it’s a lack of parking, and the auxiliary parking is a nightmare,” he said.
Cathi Robbins of Princeville estimated the potholes she’s seen in the parking area neared a depth of 18 inches, and some stretched 24 inches in diameter.
“We used to have a sedan and I’m so glad we got an SUV because it’s got a higher base,” Robbins said. The parking area improvements are “something that is going to be welcomed by the people that live here, and visitors will enjoy it, too.”
Those pits were smoothed out in a project coordinated by Hawaii’s State Parks department.
“The main parking area at Haena State Park, through extremely heavy use, had become rutted with protruding rocks and low spots creating ponding of water, and was something of a menace to rental cars,” said Alan Carpenter, Hawaii State Parks assistant administrator.
Other park improvements for which Hui Maka‘ainana o Makana received a Hawaii Tourism Authority grant include clearing and restoration of Ke Ahu A Laka and the Allerton house site, and construction of an educational hale.
Money for the project came from HTA funds granted to the County of Kauai, and the nonprofit park partner Hui Maka‘ainana o Makana was awarded the job, with the help of State Parks and Kauai County.
So far, State Parks hasn’t had to close the parking lot, and the hui has been working early in the morning to avoid conflicts with park visitors. However, a full or partial day closure of the parking lot may be required to compact the parking fill sometime this week, Carpenter said.
The improvements and maintenance underway are not part of the draft Haena Master Plan, developed by a 32-member committee to address crowding and other issues at the park.
Kauai’s “end of the road” receives around 2,000 visitors every day, according to the state, adding up to over three-quarters of a million visitors a year.
Those visitors leave their cars in the main parking area, and along the sides of the roads at Haena, while they go to Kee Beach, hike to Hanakapiai Beach or to the falls, or hike the Kalalau Trail.
Because of the heavy traffic, one of the elements of the draft Haena Master Plan is to cap the number of visitors at 900 a day. The state is also considering an entrance fee to the park, with a potential different parking area for residents.
In the meantime, parking at Kee will be smoother.
“All of these proposed improvements support specific aspects of the draft Haena Master Plan,” Carpenter said.