HAENA — The plan for Haena State Park was approved Friday by the state Board of Land and Natural Resources, establishing a future limit of 900 visitors at the end of the road per day.
The plan is one that has taken years to formulate and is the result of several community meetings and conversations with locals.
The board decision was not final approval of the plan, whose environmental impact statement must still be accepted by Gov. David Ige. Once that happens, DLNR director Suzanne Case can formally sign off on the plan.
The vision is a 100-stall main parking lot with striped stalls and permeable paving, shifted slightly to avoid a rockfall hazard zone. Also included are a new entry turnaround and a shuttle stop, with a new pedestrian-only path that follows along the berm of the lo‘i system near the highway.
“The new path will provide visitors with a unique view of Makana, a famous mountain peak, as well as views of the restored wetlands, loko and lo‘i as they continue to the iconic Ke‘e Beach,” the plan’s final draft says.
The unanimous 7-0 vote was an almost anti-climactic conclusion after a hearing that lasted more than an hour. Board members repeatedly pressed DLNR staff members and witnesses over how the 900-visitor maximum had been calculated. Staff and community members involved in the planning process agreed that implementation of the plan remains undetermined.
“It will take time,” said Alan Carpenter, the DLNR staff member who led the process. “This is a multi-year process.”
He emphasized that implementation will not begin immediately, even once the plan is finally approved.
But there was agreement that the storm had created an opportunity that must not be passed up because, with Kuhio Highway and the park closed indefinitely, work can proceed much faster than would be the case if the money had to be secured incrementally.
“The importance of this disaster funding is critical,” Carpenter said. “There’s a great opportunity here to make some changes on the North Shore.”
Key to being able to implement the plan quickly will be tapping into the $100 million emergency appropriation passed by the Legislature for storm relief. Estimates are that the Haena State Park project may require $3 million to $5 million. Of the total, $25 million has already been allocated to Kauai County, but spokesperson Sarah Blane said those funds are for projects under county jurisdiction.
DLNR will have to compete with other state agencies for the remaining funds.
To facilitate getting the work under way, DLNR plans to ask for funds for “repairs” at the park, without mentioning the master plan.
“The places we love have been loved to death,” said Chipper Wichman, executive director of the National Tropical Botanical Garden and longtime North Shore resident. “This plan is sorely needed. This flood has been Mother Earth’s way of crying out to us.”
DLNR, Carpenter said, is not responsible for establishing shuttle service to the park. But the county has not been successful in two previous attempts. Blane said Mayor Bernard Carvalho remains “totally committed” to finding a way to get the shuttle operating.
The plan calls for a parking lot that will be separated into a fee-paying lot and a non-fee paying lot with specific places for ADA accessibility, lifeguards, park staff, and parking for the hula complex and cultural practices.
The hula complex will encompass Ka Ulu a Paoa Heiau and the former Allerton Property, and a cultural gathering place will be created inland of Kailio Point with a traditional hale and halau wa‘a.
In addition, the plan supports the Agricultural Complex and encourages the restoration of cultural, historic and natural resources.
The visitor limit of 900 per day for the park includes day hikers, but does not include overnight campers or hunters with valid permits, members of the hui, cemetery caretakers, or kupuna who have cultural or ancestral ties to the area.
Preserving the historic and cultural significance of the place and balancing visitors with the needs of Haena’s environment and local residents is the goal of the plan — a goal residents say is worthy.
“With Hanalei being the end of the road now, we’re seeing it every day, all this increased traffic,” said Koral McCarthy, who has been working with flood relief volunteers in Hanalei and Haena since April’s historic flooding on the North Shore.
Kati Conant, who lives on Powerhouse Road in Wainiha, pointed out the change in the community past the Kuhio Highway blockade on the other side of Hanalei, where visitors are turned away and locals only are allowed through.
“With this calm and rest period that we have out there right now, the community is connecting,” Conant said. “This (rebuilding after the April flooding) is an opportunity for us to hit reset on the island.”
Haena Park could be part of that reset, and the idea of incorporating a shuttle is attractive to many residents on the North Shore, and many suggest the shuttle start in Kilauea with stops in Princeville, Hanalei and Haena.
“It would help it to be a more quality and safe experience,” said North Shore resident Mehana Vaughn, who also has been helping with flood relief efforts.” How do we bring in visitors in a way that keeps a good quality of life for everyone?”
The plan is set to roll out in three phases, the first over the next five years, the second phase targeted for the next 5 to 10 years, and a long-range phase in 10 to 25 years.
Work planned in the immediate-five-year range includes the construction of the welcome hale and pedestrian path, establishment of the Cultural Advisory Group and dune system improvements.
In the mid-range phase are improvements to drainage, installation of interpretive displays, and maintenance.
The long-range phase targets the wetland system at Ke‘e and allows for clearing of remaining invasive species and the continued expansion of cultural programs.
Jessica Else, environmental reporter, can be reached at 245-0452 or email@example.com.
Allan Parachini is a former journalist and PR executive. He is a Kilauea resident.