by Dan Dennison
NEAR HANA, Maui (KHNL)- The closing of a small bridge on Maui's east side below Hana hasscreated a series of problems for residents and visitors. The Paihi Bridge is not large, but is a commerce, transportation and tourism lifeline for many.
The road to Hana and beyond is famed for idyllic coastal and mountain views. Short one-lane bridges cross dozens of streams and gaps. The Paihi Bridge between Hana and Kipahulu has one of the most scenic views with Wailua falls as a backdrop. It is now literally the end of the road.
Brenda Shaffer and Noelani Clark relocated their trinket and shave ice stands to where the road is blocked by cones and where signs announce the bridge closure below. Shaffer says, "They closed the road to vehicular traffic down to the next bridge but you are welcome to pull over and park."
Clark adds, "When they initially closed it, they said it was due to earthquake damage. That's what the sign over there says." She and Shaffer figure 300 local people use the bridge, as well as many more tourists heading to Seven Sacred Pools at Oheo.
Tourist Bill Ehring says, "I'd rather have the car to get further down because were disappointed we wont see Seven Sacred Pools." Another tourist, Jason Friffin, agrees, "We were pretty disappointed, because you know how long it takes to drive out here- a couple hours!"
The impact on tourist and tourism aside, after a week without the bridge, local residents are frustrated and concerned. When asked what her biggest frustration is, Shaffer replies, "At this point, no answers, lack of answers from officials, they have no answers yet."
Many people here live off the grid and rely on ice for refrigeration, and propane or gas for power. No bridge means no transportation, no cooling or electricity. From beneath, you can see exposed rebar in places where concrete has fallen away. But locals insist it was the October 15 earthquake that got the government's attention focused on this bridge and prompted what they describe as a knee-jerk reaction.