KAPAA — Charles Nelsen has been waiting 10 years for the boardwalk connection between between the Kawaihau spur and the end of Kawaihau Road.
“I used to walk on the old path, but it got steeper every year,” he said.
Now, Nelsen, who lives at the Kawaihau Sports Villa, doesn’t have to worry about that again.
On Monday night, the boardwalk officially opened to pedestrians after three months of work by the Ohio National Guard.
“This is amazing. It’s beautiful,” Nelsen said. “I didn’t think it would be this nice.”
Over 100 people showed up to celebrate the end of the project. The connection starts near Samuel Mahelona Memorial Hospital and finishes at the Kuhio Highway end of Kawaihau Road.
The boardwalk is ADA accessible and will make 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.
After a blessing, everyone was invited to walk the 1,000-foot path.
Smiling children ran up and down the boardwalk while others rode their bikes or walked their dogs.
For Mayor Bernard P. Carvalho Jr., that’s the point.
“This is a true partnership with federal, state, county and the community working together,” he said. “Everybody has a piece of it because they believed in making Kauai a safe place to walk and bike.”
The project is part of a training mission led by the 200th Red Horse Squadron, which is part Ohio National Guard. The Red Horse Squadron was supported by 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 guard has been involved in the planning of the boardwalk project since May 2016.
Kauai Path, a nonprofit organization dedicated to educating the public about bicycle and pedestrian safety, played a key role in advocating for the project. It is one of the final portions of the third phase of a path system in Kapaa, called Ke Ala Hele Makalae, which includes the coastal bike path.
Tommy Noyes, of Kauai Path, has been involved with the project for several years.
John Hunter, who lives at the Hale Nan Kai O Kea Elderly Housing Project, said he couldn’t be more delighted with the new boardwalk.
“Who can go down the highway if they are in a wheelchair? This makes it possible,” he said.
Marjorie Lewis plans to use the boardwalk everyday.
“When I ride my bike, I used to have to go down Kawaihau Road. This is great because it’s not as steep.”