Wary of highway reopening

HAENA — Kuhio Highway west of Hanalei — closed and accessible only to residents since last year’s disastrous storms — is tentatively set to reopen on or about May 1, but continuing restrictions will make actually using the highway challenging for both residents and visitors.

For the first month the highway is back in operation, Haena State Park — gateway to Ke‘e Beach and the Kalalau Trail — will remain closed entirely, as state park officials hurry to finish a reconstruction of park facilities that will cut the number of visitors allowed to go there from 2,000 to 900 each day.

Details of the phased reopening of the highway were presented Tuesday night at a contentious meeting of the Hanalei-Haena Community Association, attended by top county and state officials.

Chipper Wichman, a top association official and former executive director of the National Tropical Botanical Garden, and Joel Guy, president of the community association, made a joint presentation.

Officials of the Hawaii Department of Transportation and state Department of Land and Natural Resources answered questions, along with state Rep. Nadine Nakamura. Nakamura sponsored pending legislation to increase parking fines in the area from Wainiha to Haena from $35 to a minimum of $200 to deter rampant no parking abuses by tourists. The measure has passed both the House and Senate and awaits action by a conference committee before final passage.

About 250 people attended the meeting at the Opakapaka Grill and Bar in Haena, which, with the adjoining Hanalei Colony Resort, has served as a de facto community center since the flood disasters of April and May last year.

Under the plan, repairs to numerous landslide and road collapse areas will be largely complete by May 1, allowing a convoy system in use since shortly after the disaster to be abandoned. However, from reopening until June 4, when a new shuttle system is scheduled to go into operation, strict limitations will be in effect to discourage visitors from venturing to Haena.

As part of a public education strategy, promotional materials will be widely disseminated — including at all rental car pickup locations — warning that:

w The convoy system that has controlled access to the area for months will be discontinued and restrictions that have closed the area to traffic other than vehicles of residents and people with legitimate business on the Haena corridor will be lifted. The highway will technically be open to public traffic.

w Replacement of three single-lane bridges between Hanalei and Haena — work nominally separate from the highway repairs but which has been occurring simultaneously — will continue. However, heavy traffic congestion is anticipated as DOT substitutes flagged access through each of the three individual bridge worksites. A flier to be distributed to tourists warns, in large black letters: “EXPECT SIGNIFICANT TRAFFIC DELAYS.”

w Haena State Park, including Ke‘e Beach and the Kalalau Trail entry point will remain closed, with virtually the entire highway west from Haena Place to the end of the road posted for no parking. Signage will stress that the new $200 parking fine is a minimum penalty. Fine revenues will be divided between DOT and the Kauai Police Department. Funding has been secured from the Hawaii Tourism Authority to provide for special parking enforcement for at least a year. If necessary, the no parking zone may be extended as far east as the Hanalei Colony Resort. Tickets will be issued by uniformed officers of DLNR’s Division of Conservation and Resources Enforcement (DOCARE), as well as the Kauai Police Department.

w Haena Beach Park will also be closed, with no parking permitted.

w Limahuli Garden will remain closed, with parking prohibited, as will as all other public parks and facilities in the corridor.

w However, limited parking for surfers and fisher folk will be available in special zones, and one-hour parking at cold pond, at the entrance to Haena park, will be permitted.

w The checkpoint near Hanalei that has existed throughout the convoy system’s duration will remain operational, but passing the checkpoint will be permitted. Staff may discourage tourists from continuing, but they will not be prohibited from using the road.

The arrangement is necessitated, Wichman and Guy said, because of the federal government’s majority role in funding reconstruction of the highway, which comes with a condition that full public access must be permitted once the road officially reopens.

Guy, who also heads the Hanalei Initiative, a nonprofit formed to plan for a shuttle service to be available for residents and visitors, said operators are in the process of being selected and the service is scheduled to start on June 4 on a route from Princeville to Ke‘e Beach. At the same time, a newly rebuilt parking lot at Haena State Park will go into service with capacity limited to 100 cars and spots available to tourists by reservation only. Residents will have any-time access to the parking facility.

When the shuttle route opens, a park-and-ride facility will be opened at the Waipa Foundation in Hanalei. However, Guy said negotiations have begun with owners of the Princeville Shopping Center to open a permanent park-and-ride lot near the Foodland store there, which would permit phasing out the Waipa site. Guy said this process is expected to take at least six months.

The shuttle route will begin from a central staging point in Princeville, to which hotel and condo operators will be asked to deliver passengers in their own shuttle vehicles. Shuttle tickets will be $11 for tourists, Guy said, $2 for locals. Kauai Bus passes will be accepted.

The atmosphere at Tuesday’s meeting was tense, but not hostile, though many community members made clear their reservations about any plan to reopen the road to the public. Typical was that of Louise Sausen, who delivered the pule at the start of the meeting.

“Just because I’m doing this pule doesn’t mean I agree with what’s happening,” Sausen said, to murmurs of agreement throughout the audience. “We all understand the problems.”

Wichman said the highway reopening plan reflects a growing awareness, by HTA and others, that managing tourism has become more important than marketing it.

“We are beyond capacity,” he said.

He and Guy agreed on the importance of managing expectations of residents, as well.

“We know this will not all go as planned from day one,” Wichman said.

He noted that, even a successful shuttle operation may — in and of itself — only reduce the estimated traffic volume on the highway of 3,400 cars a day by only about 100 vehicles.

“This is a small step in the right direction,” Guy said. “Not every visitor is going to get to go to Haena every time they want. Things have to change.”

However, Wichman said, the objective of the new plan is to “never turn away a resident” from access to the area or parking at Ke‘e Beach. “The goal is to try to deter visitors.”

Guy captured the mood of the crowd when he said, “we can all sit here and gripe all night long,” but “the bad news will be if our plan doesn’t work. If not, we are going to have significant delays” for all users of the highway.

He drew laughs when he observed: “I can almost guarantee the first week will be a disaster.”

•••

Longtime news reporter and communications executive Allan Parachini lives and makes furniture in Kilauea.

24 Comments
  1. Gail Mason April 11, 2019 2:33 am Reply

    Speaking as a tourist, it would be greatly appreciated if there was a free parking period. For example, perhaps 7-9am on weekdays could be free for the early risers that just want to wander the beach at sunrise then leave. If they do not leave by 9, then they get the $200 parking ticket. I would not want to pay a $200 parking fine! I travel to Kauai on a rather tight budget.


    1. Missy April 13, 2019 7:51 pm Reply

      There will still be plenty of free parking spots available, just not until the state and county parks are open, prospectively on June 4th.


  2. Uncleaina April 11, 2019 6:06 am Reply

    Our leaders have a seemingly endless string of bad ideas. This shuttle is just another example. Can’t wait to see the multiple ways that it fails.


  3. Boohoo Huhu April 11, 2019 6:22 am Reply

    Let’s break this so called news down. First and foremost the meeting was NOT contentious. This exaggeration sets the tone for this article. Louise Sausen, who delivered her so called pule, used the opportunity to give her usual rude commentary before doing what she was actually up there to do. She then left the meeting without even bothering to listen to what was said. During the evening there was two actual rude outbursts. One early on and one mid way through the presentation. Actually Chipper Wichman, Joel Guy and Larry Dill, the county DOT representative, were the only people who answered questions. Nadine Nakamura did not.
    The reason stated in the article for the road opening is again not correct and misleading. The actual reason the road has to open is that the contract signed by the Governor with the federal government has that date for the funding to stop when the road is “deemed safe” which has been determined by the state DOT and construction managers to be on May 1 when the actual road portion of the repairs is forecast to be complete including the two stream crossings at Manoa and Limahuli. Legally the road must be open to the public and the county doesn’t have many options to continue to give the people who live out there and do not want their peace and quiet disturbed the option to continue to deprive the rest of the stakeholders a way in.
    Not mentioned in the article also is the fact that legal TVRs will be allowed to operate from the opening date with some sort of voucher system to be worked out still. Also not mentioned is the amount of pressure from the local Kauai population to gain entry and the amount of push back to articles like which leave the impression that the system being developed to handle this transition is somehow lacking nor has the fact that the county is trying very hard to accommodate everyone not just the people who live in there.
    To call the atmosphere tense is a complete exaggeration also. In fact I do not believe the author was even there. I certainly did not see him and his slanted statements using words like tense show either intended bias or his not being present at the meeting. I was there long after most people left when the mayor gave his speech which is not even mentioned here because the author was not there. I would know at that point. So my guess is that he did not even attend this meeting.
    To say Joel’s statement about griping all night long encapsulated the mood of the crowd is another inflammatory statement designed to enhance the points he makes about the mood being hostile. The mood was mellow and courteous predominately. Even with alcohol being served.
    And all the references to things being said about the transition being something akin to a disaster by Joel and Chipper fail to mention that every time they said that they also said that there’s a chance it might not be and that they know that it could go either way the point being that they were doing all they could to satisfy everyone not just the dissenters in the area who have never once mentioned the other people with a stake in the outcome.
    The vocal dissenters had Mrs Sausen to try to incite things but it failed and she only looked like the rude inconsiderate of other peoples opinions person she seems to be. Leaving without even bothering to stay and listen just proves that she is not community minded in the true sense of the word.
    The county has done a decent job with a tough situation. The new administration is not as biased as the last one who kowtowed to the vocal minority who has done whatever they can to tear apart what is being done and said as not good enough for their needs. What about other’s needs? To call themselves community minded is not accurate by a long shot because there are far more people involved not bothering to step up and be heard in the atmosphere brought to the meetings in the past by the rude dissenters who don’t think about the community as a whole. With that kind of attitude on display all the time no wonder Mr Parachini only seems to put out biased uninformed pieces like this. He really is not aware that there’s more to be said and slanting things to appear to seem tense. I guess if he was there and heard other points of view he might put out a more unbiased accurate article.


    1. Resident April 11, 2019 12:13 pm Reply

      Mahalo !!!!


      1. Boohoo Huhu April 11, 2019 11:55 pm Reply

        No problem…


      2. Felicia Cowden April 13, 2019 9:31 pm Reply

        Alan Parachini was definitely in the room.


  4. larry charles bender April 11, 2019 6:28 am Reply

    Who is going to want to go to Kauai anymore if there are some many restrictions for tourists?


    1. Scary Larry April 11, 2019 12:12 pm Reply

      Yeah, Maui really is the better option for vacations. It’s the best of all the islands. I’ll be vacationing there from now on.


      1. da guy April 11, 2019 7:59 pm Reply

        oh righhhhttttttt


    2. Hairy Chuck Stiffie April 11, 2019 1:59 pm Reply

      I wouldn’t worry about it. In fact more will want to come because it will have become a carrot on a stick luring therm to try their luck and the prize will a destination being managed to prolong it’s value as a destination.


  5. jb April 11, 2019 8:15 am Reply

    the roads were repaired with federal funds. the road and area needs to be open to all. restrict parking for all and that will limit the number visiting. Enforce both locals and tourist to pack out their trash. Hawaii is a tourist destination as are several other states in the US. perhaps learn from these states on crowd control. The “local only” attitude is ridiculous. Of course taking over a year to open a highway shows how poorly this island/state is managed.


    1. Bear April 11, 2019 7:57 pm Reply

      Hawaii was annex by the US then more or less forced to become part of the US. They used it as a military strong point- testing bombs and all kinds of crazy crap- kinda beating up the place- meanwhile the government tried to systematically erase a culture- kids would get cracks if the spoke Hawaiian in school-

      Now fast forward to today- neighborhoods here are being gentrified- housing and cost of living are highest while wages are low- meanwhile real estate and government agencies are pimping out this beautiful land like a teenage sexslave. All just to make a buck- and effectively helping to marginalize this culture- in short they want the land but they never want the people- the same people who have protected and cultivated the land for the last 500 years-

      When you visit try have respect and keep this in mind


  6. Steve Brock April 11, 2019 8:21 am Reply

    I live in Moab, Ut, and we too are over run with tourists and many times wish we had a valve to shut them off. So, I get it that locals want to restrict traffic to the North Shore. I will be visiting Kauai next month for the third time and was looking forward to snorkeling at Ke’e Beach, but thems the breaks, I’ll be satisfied with other beaches and try not to be too much of a pain and show some respect while I visit your beautiful island. And if the locals can figure out a way to keep Kuhio Highway closed, do it!


    1. Ziko Quintana April 11, 2019 12:36 pm Reply

      I appreciate your attitude Steve, I hope you enjoy your visit!


  7. Aloha April 11, 2019 8:57 am Reply

    A park and ride from Princeville Shopping center? We can barely park there for the market.


  8. Erf Peeple April 11, 2019 1:13 pm Reply

    Very exciting news for most that the road will finally open up for all Kauai lovers to enjoy again! Big boohoo for the grumbling kroniks and high maka maka.


  9. Koconut_wireless April 11, 2019 2:44 pm Reply

    Well, maybe Kapaa won’t be a parking lot anymore….nah, that won’t change either. There will be cars parked all over the place up there just like before. Directly in front of No Parking signs, blocking half the road, forgetting that emergency RESCUE vehicles need to pass back and forth through there. The DOT guy said there will be 2 MILES of NO PARKING SIGNS and ALL the parks are going to be closed. Can you imagine what the U-turn nightmare it is going to be up there? When people realize they can’t beach or try to anyways. What an organized CLUSTER FLUCK! And what the heck is a “soft opening” Felicia? It’s a roadway not a restaurant.


  10. arbitrary April 11, 2019 2:50 pm Reply

    * The checkpoint near Hanalei that has existed throughout the convoy system’s duration will remain operational, but passing the checkpoint will be permitted. Staff may discourage tourists from continuing, but they will not be prohibited from using the road.*

    -love this one. I’m guessing discouragement will be among the lines of “no come to my f***n hood h***le?
    catch crakz f***n h***le? h****le go home?


  11. onehapa April 11, 2019 7:32 pm Reply

    Respect is good, but it needs to be a two way street. Shuttle $11 for visitors $2 for residents? Preferential parking? What’s that? I agree with jb, same for all.


  12. Makani B. Howard April 11, 2019 8:11 pm Reply

    The rest of us on island have had to deal with tourists all year. How about we all shut down the roads by our houses too because we want less traffic and noise? What makes Haena so special? They at least got a year of silence.


  13. TLC April 12, 2019 12:11 am Reply

    More government control whether Federal or Local taking rights away from the people whether local or visitors. I too live in a beautiful state with very high tourism. Our town and area depend on it. Not once have I ever wanted to restrict their access to the gorgeous various sights in our areas and we live in the middle of it. I want visitors to enjoy the natural beauty of our state just as we do year around. Your plans to close parks or beaches or to have to have permits to do so is very upsetting. And seriously, who wants to go to the North Shore in a shuttle? I was in Kauai for 3 months this year and it was so very disappointing not being able to drive to Ke’e Beach and to enjoy all of the other beaches along the way. Yes, I understood the damage from the flooding that roads and cliff sides had to be repaired. Yet I still felt cheated not being able to visit the most beautiful part of the island. I’ve been coming to Kauai every year for the past 30 years and absolutely love it there! I have the utmost respect for the people of Hawaii and love the Hawaiian culture and history. I am a visitor in your state and behave accordingly always mindful that it is your home. With your new future changes to the North Shore that puts more than a damper on wanting to visit. It’s so very disappointing. I know for a fact Hawaii DEPENDS on tourism to survive. This is such a huge deterrent…….but then that’s what you wanted, isn’t it? I am deeply saddened with this situation.


  14. K M F April 13, 2019 12:41 am Reply

    In response to all the above comments… some very valid, some, well let’s say, very “above and beyond”. I attended Tuesdays, 4/9/19 meeting at the Hanalei Colony Resort in Haena. Alan Parachini’s report was clear, fair, and concise as far as I was concerned experiencing the first two hours of this meeting. Expecting to hear much more from our elected officials way before the end of Mr. Chipper Wichman’s and Joel Guy’s ongoing presentations. I had had enough and left.
    Nonetheless, this is such a sad affair on so many self levels, living in this area for well over thirty years, respectfully raising my children and having the experience of knowing and learning from many of the Kapuna spoken of, I am extremely saddened by the extreme lack of Aloha so many seem to claim. Shameful. Think of you, your children, or grandchildren wanting to have the experience of enjoying any of this world’s wonders and being turned away by hateful beauracratic particulars. At this time, I’m ashamed of the Wainiha/Haena community I’ve grown in. Balance needs to be in place… think about it. Try to make it happen…


  15. Robert Minkus April 13, 2019 5:29 pm Reply

    r-minkus@northwestern.edu

    April 11, 2019
    Kauai, you have broken our hearts. We first came to Kauai 30 years ago, and fell completely in love. Since then, we have visited 17 times, always for 2-3 weeks. We came, first with children, now with grandchildren, and developed a deep attachment and aloha aina to this beautiful place.  The last 15 visits have all been to the unique, spiritually cleansing, and spectacular North Shore. Like most non-natives, we have felt a responsibility to respect and take care of this special place.
     
    So, it is with shock and great sadness that we learned of the plans to significantly curtail our access to the North Shore past Hanalei.  We have seen so many sunsets at Ke’e beach, our kids and now grandchildren have swung from those ropes into the Lumahai River, we have spent such wonderful times at Tunnels Beach. Now, all this will be sorely restricted, both financially and logistically. We are supposed to buy $11 per person tickets and take buses from Princeville, dragging all our beach gear? Really? We are supposed to reserve parking spots. Really?
    This is such a mistake. I understand that people who live up that way would prefer to keep people like us out, but that paradise does not just belong to them—it belongs to all of us. What happened to the core Hawaiian concept (indeed law) that all beaches must be open and easily accessible to the public? We have been up that way innumerable times over the years, and never have we had trouble finding a legal place to park. If indeed, that is an issue, the answer is to open more spaces, especially near Ke’e beach, not to keep us out.
     
    On a more general level, I am afraid this is a symptom of the widespread hostility against part-timers like us, which is obvious to anyone who, like me, reads the Garden Island regularly. I certainly understand some of the frustrating issues, especially the traffic situation in Kapa’a, but be careful what you wish for. Like it or not, tourism is now the core industry of Kauai. Alienate visitors, make them feel unwelcome, and the economy of he island will suffer deeply, which means a loss of jobs and significant tax revenue.
     
    Honestly, our love has been shattered. Rather than feel like honored and welcome guests, we have now been made to feel like undesirable pests. I don’t know if we will ever return to this land we love so much.
     
     
    Robert Minkus, M.D.
    Chicago, IL


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