Happy trails are here again

  • Jessica Else / The Garden Island

    Collin Darrell, operations director for Anaina Hou Community Park, stands at the trailhead for Wai Koa Loop Trail in Kilauea, which will be re-open to the public Monday.

  • Graphic contributed by Collin Darrell

    The new route of the Wai Koa Loop Trail is seen, still 4.5 miles.

  • Jessica Else / The Garden Island

    This is the first part of Wai Koa Loop Trail, the trailhead at Anaina Hou Community Park. Officials say the trail will likely be slightly muddy but passable Saturday for the Ohana Fit Fest.

KILAUEA — It could be another year before you’ll see the ancient waterways and picturesque landscapes out at Stone Dam, part of the 4.5-mile Wai Koa Loop Trail on Kauai’s North Shore.

That’s because the rains that flooded parts of the island in April hit that area, too, nearly wiping out the dam and making the area too dangerous for the public.

“They had to build a new road to get out to it and they’ve been working on it for months,” said Collin Darrell, operations director at Anaina Hou Community Park, which is one of two trailheads of Wai Koa Loop Trail. “They’ve already been working on rebuilding for months.”

Anaina Hou Community Park is on land owned by the late Bill Porter and his wife Joan, on the same property as Stone Dam, the working farm Wai Koa Plantation, and the Wai Koa Loop Trail.

The storms in April and in the months following have made for a muddy Wai Koa Loop Trail, but only one spot on the trail required rebuilding after it was washed out.

The damage wasn’t nearly as significant as it was at Stone Dam, Darrell said, where repair work is estimated to come with at least a $2 million price tag.

Several entities care for Stone Dam, Wai Koa — Common Ground and Anaina Hou Community Park — and the budget for that large of a project is something that has to be prioritized.

“It’s something they’re working on, but we’re lucky it’s still there at all,” Darrell said.

Stone Dam was built in the early 1800s to supply water for raising sugar in and around Kilauea. In the early 1900s, Kalihiwai Reservoir was built with a storage capacity of 54 million gallons to supply water to Stone Dam, which can hold 10 million gallons.

Hanalei Ditch also supplied water to Stone Dam, which became integral to a water system for areas in Kilauea, Waikoloa Reservoir and east to Koolau.

The Porters decided to open their property and access to Stone Dam.

But, it’ll be closed until it can be repaired.

“You can’t open a place to the public that’s not safe,” Darrell said. “That’s not smart.”

While Stone Dam isn’t open to the public, the Wai Koa Loop Trail has been tweaked to reroute it away from Stone Dam and will be the site of Saturday’s Ohana Fit Fest, an obstacle trail run/walk hosted by Anaina Hou and Kauai North Shore Community Foundation.

“Anaina Hou is planning to be the site for this event going forward,” Darrell said. “It fits right into our vision of being a community gathering place.”

After the race, the modified Wai Koa Loop Trail will be open to the public. Those who want to hike the trail should use the Anaina Hou trailhead and stop by the welcome center to sign a waiver since the trail is on private property.

As for Stone Dam, money and patience are required for restoration.

“It’s a great place to hang out, and it’s a piece of history here on Kauai, but it has to be safe before people are allowed back there,” Darrell said.

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Jessica Else, environment reporter, can be reached at 245-0452 or jelse@thegardenisland.com.

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