LIHUE — Koloa ohanas can now use the Historic Hapa Trail to get to the beach thanks to four men who have continued the legacy of caretaking the trail.
The newly cleared thoroughfare isn’t just open to Koloa residents, either. The 1.8-mile trail provides walkers, hikers and bikers with an off-the-beaten path way to exercise, access the beach and travel between the trailhead at Little Fish Coffee Company in Poipu to the St. Raphael Church in Koloa.
The hidden, old country road is known as Hapa Road and was once the government road that linked Koloa to Poipu. It became a pedestrian and bike path for access to new developments that were being built in the 1980’s and then fell into disrepair.
For years, it’s main use has been during Koloa Plantation Days, where the historic walks are hosted by Hapa Trail Restoration Committee and members of the Koloa Community Association, the trail’s origional caretakers.
Recent maintenance on the trail is thanks to a project spearheaded by residents Teddy Blake, John Gibb, Ethan Page, and Michael Thompson and, who wanted to continue the vision to make the trail usable for their community. They started working on the project in December.
“My kids live in Koloa and they ride their bikes down to my work. It’s an asset,” said Little Fish Coffee Company owner Ethan Page.
Blake was involved in earlier efforts to restore the trail and was able to give the group a starting point for their project. Previous work included re-creating two lava rock pohaku walls running mauka to makai (mountains to the ocean), following the Poipu Road boundary up to St. Raphael Church.
“This is a rock wall (was) perhaps to keep livestock off of the road itself,” Blake said. “The walls are about 21 feet apart from each other and, up to the 1970’s, were completely intact.”
Efforts over the years to rehabilitate the walls have included groups of 50 and 60 people, all community members who wanted to see the Hapa Trail become traversable and usable.
Gibb said that was the vision that drew him to the project, along with seven or eight volunteers. He said he eventually wants to see the kids with surfboards cruising down the trail with their bikes without getting hurt from the plentiful invasive cactus or overgrown grass.
“I grew up on the east side and I didn’t really know about it,” Gibb said. “I was there to help out with project management and make sure guys had all they needed.”
Thompson said he envisions the historic trail as an educational hike for visitors, as well as residents.
Work isn’t done on the Hapa Trail.
Now that the weeds have been knocked back and a walk and bike path cleared, it’s time to get back to building those walls.
“Now we are undertaking the wall reconstruction,” Blake said. “It is 1.2 mile for each wall and Malama Koloa has stocked 2,600 cubic yards of rock to take care of the wall.”
Historic preservation and community connection are the top priorities for the Hapa Trail maintenance project, but organizers said they’re also hoping to involve Kauai’s next generation and teach them the importance of Kauai history.
“I want the keiki to learn how to take care of what belongs to them and apply that towards their aina’, like the trail,” said Blake.
Gibb added: “The history of the trail its self is pretty amazing, we want to utilize that and keep it living.”We want to help preserve it.”