Out of crisis, ‘amazing opportunity’

  • Contributed by state Department of Land and Natural Resources

    Workers put finishing touches on the new parking lot at Haena State Park.

HAENA — A new boardwalk and freshly paved parking lot are waiting for visitors to Haena State Park, but it technically won’t be open until repair work on Kuhio Highway is done.

Renovations were planned for Haena State Park before April floods destroyed large parts of the parking lot, wiped out Kuhio Highway and triggered five large landslides over the Kalalau Trail.

When the flood hit, the only road in and out of Haena was closed for repairs and the state Department of Land and Natural Resources Division of State Parks took the opportunity to implement plans for balancing use and preservation.

“It was a crisis that created an amazing opportunity,” said Alan Carpenter, assistant administrator for the Division of State Parks. “We managed to switch gears and borrow funds from other planned projects, which gave us the chance to implement a master plan at almost record speed.”

The project was aimed at fixing two major issues at Haena State Park: crumbling infrastructure and appearance and rising visitor numbers.

The Division of State Parks has set up a system at Haena State Park that aims to cut the number of daily visitors from 2,000 a day to 900.

Carpenter says he thinks the experience will be enhanced for everyone who visits the area.

“We’ll have a variety of methods to accomplish this, including a controlled-entry system through online purchasing of parking slots or a seat on a shuttle,” Carpenter said. “Some of the details are still being worked out as we continue to collaborate with partners and the community on the best ways to manage the flow of people and traffic.”

The former, pitted parking lot known for oversized potholes, large rocks and damaged undersides of vehicles is now smooth, which will better manage the congestion, according to DLNR. A boardwalk and pathway are being constructed through a restored lo‘i system for access to Ke‘e Beach and the Kalalau trailhead.

DLNR calls it “a step toward incorporating desires of the local community into management.”

Vehicles and visitors to Haena State Park have been clogging the sides of the road and parking lot for years as they access Ke‘e Beach for snorkeling and the Kalalau trailhead, and the local community has voiced concerns the area is too crowded.

The Division of State Parks says the goal is to create a situation visitors, cultural practitioners and residents can all enjoy.

Ultimately, Carpenter says, the first and foremost mission is to protect the sensitive natural and cultural features of Haena and Napali.

“One of the best ways of doing this is to limit visitation, and any mainland or world travelers have likely already experienced limited park entrance at certain national parks and international destinations like Machu Picchu or Nepal,” he said in a press release.

The park opening depends on the Kuhio Highway reopening, which officials say should occur by the end of April.


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

  1. Palani March 1, 2019 8:28 am Reply

    Before the development of Princeville and the north shore, there were never any crowds at Haena. We just went there and parked at the end of the road. Some of us made the day hike into Hanakapiai without fear that our cars would be vandalized. Now it’s a zoo of humanity. Same with the dry cave. Too many people.

  2. Ted March 1, 2019 9:14 am Reply

    Sounds to me like they’re creating a theme park to make money. What about those of us who live here and want to have access to the public beach? Will we now have to compete with visitors to make an appointment and pay?

  3. nice start March 1, 2019 9:42 am Reply

    Great beginning! Please include a way to recognize Hawaii and local residents, giving them priority access by using HDL identification. Its felt that state and local residents should have access availability over visitors.

  4. Justmyopinion March 1, 2019 10:14 am Reply

    Did anyone else notice the line in the second paragraph that says ..”borrowed funds from other planned projects”?? Wouldn’t it be interesting to know which projects will be delayed AGAIN because the funds were “borrowed”!!

  5. Karen Donalddon March 1, 2019 11:19 am Reply

    I certainly understand & appreciate that local residents should have access to Public trails & Beaches those same residents should think about what their taxes would be if it wasn’t for “ visitors “ like myself who live very frugality ALL year so I can afford the trip to Kauai ( truly my fav. Place in the Wiorld) . I always try to be respectful of where I am & am so disappointed when nature takes over & therefore I can go & share with family the many treasures of your beautiful island. Without tourists the residents would be in big trouble & Im sure the “ Powers that Be” will be able to balance that out.

  6. Vicki Guinn March 1, 2019 11:26 am Reply

    I agree with the locals. I have been a visitor to the trailhead arriving early and leaving early out of respect and it is a zoo. I live in Santa Cruz CA and we have many of the same issues. We now have parking permits for residents of beach neighborhoods so they have priority parking. Limited parking spaces and illegal parking outside of those spaces limits access. It is really nice for the locals to have this consideration. We all agree that tourists bring about a bustling economy but should not be at the expense of residents.

  7. pointfisha March 1, 2019 12:55 pm Reply

    One more step toward making Kauai into Oahu.

    “Local community interests” – How local? Island local or North Shore local?

    So nice for North Shore to get its own private community on the heels of a disaster using county wide money. Opportunism, heavy.

    Already got limited fishing access on “their” reef, monitored by… uh, “local interests.”
    So when do the rest get to start setting beach and shore access limits?

  8. pointfisha March 1, 2019 1:04 pm Reply

    North Shore: “Hey, everybody, we don’t like lotsa visitors. Only 900 up here. All the rest… You take ’em!”

  9. Doug March 1, 2019 7:23 pm Reply

    Would be nice if they had a six month “residents only” period once the road is open (how long have all of us been patiently waiting to go back up there?). A six month residents only period would be a great way to try out the new system without flooding it with people, and reward residents for their patience!

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