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 firstname.lastname@example.org.