Repairs continue at one of Kauai's most visited spots — and so does a plan to limit access

HAENA (HawaiiNewsNow) - Haena State Park, one of Kauai's most visited spots, remains closed due to significant damage caused by the historic flooding.

And there's still no word on when it will reopen.

The floodwaters caused major erosion at Kee Beach, and the world-renowned Kalalau Trail is closed and blocked off.

At the same time, though, a new master plan for the park is being considered to cut down on the overcrowding of tourists.

Residents say the community was being suffocated by the park's growing popularity, and they hope the proposal will provide an opportunity to start over.

"This place is getting loved to death. There's just too many people," said Presley Wann, president of Hui Makaainana O Makana.

Wann's organization has been a community caretaker of Haena State Park since 1999.

He says this down time without visitors has allowed the area to heal and it makes him miss the old Haena.

"When we were young, we used to just walk all around here. It used to be just like this. Now, we're getting 2,000 to 3,000 people a day," Wann said.

The state Department of Land and Natural Resources has been working with the community on a master plan for the park, which would limit the number of visitors to 900 a day.

The $5 million makeover also includes a 100-stall main parking lot with paid parking, hula complex, pedestrian pathways, and an area for agriculture.

Once Gov. David Ige accepts the environmental impact statement, the plan can move forward.

"We just are starting the implementation now. Obviously we'll need a lot of funds to do the capital improvements envisioned. There's a long ways to go, but it provides us the road map to get there," said Suzanne Case, DLNR chairwoman.

Some businesses in the area are worried that a limit on visitors means a drop in customers, while others are already adapting.

"I think it will be fine for our business. We started a shuttle service here at the resort for our guests five years ago," said Laura Richards, general manager of the Hanalei Colony Resort. "Knowing about the master plan, knowing about the future, we felt that was the thing to do to protect the footprint out here the best we can."

Sue Kanoho, executive director of the Kauai Visitors Bureau, supports the proposal and says visitor limits are necessary to help preserve these treasured attractions.

"The parks on the mainland are doing a lot of this. Haleakala (National Park) just did this. You can't just show up anymore. From a visitor's standpoint, you're going to need to plan, and I think that's the right thing to do for this place," said Kanoho.

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