KAPAA — Soon, folks will have a way to get from Kawaihau Road to the rest of Kauai’s coastal path via a 1,000-foot boardwalk.
The connection, which is being built by military volunteers, starts near Samuel Mahelona Memorial Hospital and finishes at the Kuhio Highway end of Kawaihau Road.
Once completed, the boardwalk, which will be ADA compliant, will provide a connection between the Kawaihau spur at the lower part of the hill and the portion extending from Gore Park at the upper part of the hill.
The project is part of a training mission led by the Ohio National Guard. Work started in May and is expected to wrap up at the end of the month.
“Everyone’s been really supportive and welcoming,” said Lt. Col Joe Logan. “The school and the hospital has let us use their parking lot and water, so now we’re trying to repay those debts.”
The Ohio National Guard is heading a team of airmen from the 248th Civil Engineer Flight, the 179th Airlift Wing, Seabees and Marines from the Engineer Service Company for an Innovative Readiness Training, or IRT mission.
The training mission is a way for the military personnel to get on-the job experience before they are deployed, said Paul Stennett, spokesman for the Ohio National Guard.
“They set up hangars and runways when they’re deployed, but they know how to build anything,” he said.
The Guard has been involved in the planning of the boardwalk project since May 2016. Personnel were officially assigned to the project in May of this year, Logan said.
“You can tell this has been wanted for a long time,” he said. “It’s been good training for us, and that’s why we do these things.”
Before vertical construction could begin, crews had to clear the land, Stennett said.
Kauai Path, a nonprofit organization dedicated to educating the public about bicycle and pedestrian safety, has played a key role in advocating for the project, said Chief Master Sgt. Troy Siebenaler.
“They helped push it with the county to get the project going,” he said.
Tommy Noyes of Kauai Path said the boardwalk is one of the final portions of the third phase of a path system in Kapaa, called Ke Ala Hele Makale, which includes the coastal bike path.
“Kawaihau Road is densely populated, and the services, like the library, shopping and the bike path are all on the coast,” he said.
Because the stretch of road going into downtown Kapaa from the road is “steep and winding,” it can be intimidating for walkers and bicyclists, he said.
“There’s no accommodations for pedestrians, and you certainly wouldn’t want to take wheelchairs down the road,” he said. “Once the grade transition is available, we can complete the sidewalk and build bike lanes to make it more attractive.”
By making Kauai a safe place to walk and bike, Noyes hopes to change the way people think about transportation.
“When there are pleasant, safe places to get out and be active, it makes a tremendous impact on the health of a population,” he said.