HAENA — Even though Kuhio Highway is scheduled to reopen May 1, the main attractions on the North Shore will remain closed.
The state Department of Land and Natural Resources on Monday announced plans to reopen Ha’ena State Park, Kalalau Trail and the Napali Coast State Wilderness Park in early to mid-June, with the official opening date announcement coming in May.
The Kauai Visitors Bureau is requesting people hold off on going past the checkpoint at Waikoko until Ha‘ena State Park is reopen.
“The road is opening. However, what people want to go to is closed,” said Sue Kanoho, KVB executive director. “There’s no parking and no restrooms right now. Give us this month of May to help get our ducks in a row.”
The DLNR news release outlined the permit and shuttle system that will bring people in and announced restrictions, which will ban overnight parking and limit parking reservations to 100 stalls in Ha‘ena State Park. Day hikes and parking within the park will require permits.
The new advance reservation system will be available prior to the park reopening and will coincide with a new county-supported shuttle system, according to DLNR officials.
The department says it will allow visitors with reservations to access the park without contributing to the traffic and parking woes that have plagued the region for years. Limited parking reservations will also be available, with a new fee system in place. A number of parking slots will be held back for residents, who are also not subject to the park entry fee and will not be required to make an advance reservation.
DLNR said it also intends to “establish protocols using the collective wisdom of the Aha Moku, Haena State Park Community and Cultural Advisory Committees and the Hui Maka‘ainana o Makana.”
“We appreciate and encourage patience as we establish this new system of park access, transportation, and management to mitigate the impacts of traffic on Kauai’s north shore and to make the park experience more enjoyable for residents and visitors alike,” said DLNR State Parks Administrator Curt Cottrell.
Alan Carpenter, assistant administrator for the DLNR Division of State Parks, added:
“For permitted overnight campers along the Kalalau Trail, the reservation system will function as it always has, and those with permits to camp will not be subject to the visitor limits. However, under the new management scheme, overnight visitors to the Napali Coast State Wilderness Park will not be able to leave their vehicles at Ha’ena State Park. They will need to take the shuttle or arrange for other transportation to the trailhead. The Kalalau camping reservation system will be re-activated once the opening date is finalized.”
Basically, the reopening of the closed areas past Waikoko isn’t lining up.
Once Kuhio Highway reopens, you’ll be able to drive through Ha‘ena State Park, but you’ll get ticketed and fined that $200 if you park your car.
Several components are at play in Ha‘ena and along Kuhio Highway.
First, the reworking of Ha‘ena State Park access and management is part of an update that’s been in the works for 20 years. The goal of the Ha‘ena State Park Master Plan is to manage the estimated 2,000 daily visitors in a more responsible manner.
That project was moved up after flooding in 2018 wiped out most of the parking lot and infrastructure and closed Kuhio Highway with multiple landslides that tore apart the road.
Second, the money was set aside to fix Kuhio Highway and the money that was set aside to fund work on the three bridges come from different pots.
Once the flood repairs are done on Kuhio Highway, HDOT has to reopen that part of the road even though there will still be significant work being conducted on the three bridges.
So, with that in mind, officials are putting out a message for May: “If you do not have a residential permit or placard, please do not drive north of Hanalei.”
“Right now, we want to get through May without having droves go down there,” Kanoho said. “We ask people to please not go up there at this time while they’re getting the final touches on reopening the park.”
Jessica Else, environment reporter, can be reached at 245-0452 or at firstname.lastname@example.org