HANALEI — Black Pot Beach Park welcomed hundreds of visitors at its reopening on Monday.
Along the shoreline, pockets of people gathered under umbrellas, watched the waterfalls in the mountains or enjoyed the overcast beach on a rainy day.
Keapo Gonsalves, from Anahola, said the park is much different than the one she knew growing up.
“It’s going to take some getting used to,” she said. “But it’s good.”
The popular park — a hangout for locals and always on the list of must-see for visitors — was badly damaged by an overflowing Hanalei River in April 2018. Vehicles were washed into ravines carved out by the water, the road to the beach was wiped out and the restroom was destroyed.
Repairs and construction have been ongoing since then, but, Monday debuted the park’s new roundabout, parking lot and drop-off/pick-up zone, as well as other changes to showcase the park’s ocean setting.
The portable restrooms between the lot and the beach are temporary, as work continues on what will be a movable comfort station.
“We didn’t even know today was the opening,” said Tori Amato, of Anahola, as she and others played with their kids in the shallows near the Hanalei Pier.
“We have been parking up there (by the pavilion) and walking, so we were excited to be able to park closer,” said Anna Chong, one of Amato’s friends.
They took a minute to consider the new layout of Black Pot Beach Park and unanimously decided that it seemed to be working well.
“It’s more organized and cleaner,” said Malaa Aceret, another in the group.
The county spent about $6 million on the project. Improvements include:
w Removal and trimming of some bushes and trees to open up a panoramic view of the ocean.
w Vinyl fencing lines the park along Weke Road, and there are new safety gates.
w Boulders along the ocean-side of the park now create separation from the beach.
w The new parking lot has spaces for about 50 vehicles, and the grass field across Weke Road will offer space for overflow parking.
w The county also acquired the 1.5-acre beach front lot west of Black Pot.
w More native trees and plants will be put in as well.
One major difference at Black Pot Beach Park is beach parking is no longer allowed, which is a change to an ongoing tradition near the river mouth.
Several beachgoers on Monday said they understood the environmental reasons behind the change — among them, the high potential for oil and fluid leaks. Others pointed out the need for the new comfort station to be finished quickly. Some suggested the county bring in bigger recycling bins.
Neither the downpours nor the details dampened spirits at the end of the Hanalei Pier, where keiki and adults were jumping off the edge.
Tucked out of the rain, visitors Margie and Irineo Sepulveda watched the action at the pier and ate lunch at a beach they’ve been visiting for 40 years.
“It’s always been a nice beach,” Irineo Sepulveda said. “I’d say it’s really picked up in the last 10 years, though. The parking’s nice now.”
Jessica Else, staff writer, can be reached at 245-0452 or firstname.lastname@example.org.