HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) -Last April’s massive rainfall on Kauai devastated Haena State Park, home of the world-renowned Kalalau Trail.
The state announced plans to re-open the park in June, but significant changes are being made to tackle the overcrowding that’s plagued the area for decades.
Repairs are still ongoing to much of Kauai’s North Shore that was hit hard. Ha’ena State Park is no exception.
Before the flood, the state says the park sometimes saw as many as 2,000 visitors every day. Under a new plan, that number is going to be cut down to 900 and include online reservations and limited parking stalls.
“We just don’t want that area to be abused like it was in the past,” Sue Kanoho, the executive director of the Kauai Visitors Bureau said. “There’s been a lot of erosion. So just like Haleakala and Hanauma Bay, we’re going to have to limit the people.”
When the park reopens in June, visitors will have to make advance reservations and pay a small entrance fee.
They’ll also have to pay for parking in one of the 100 stalls, far less than the previous 300, or catch the new shuttle, which will debut in Waipa and eventually move to Princeville.
“The county giving a million and a half dollars to establish a new shuttle that will really help remove cars off of the road is unprecedented,” Chipper Wichman, President of Kauai’s National Tropical Botanical Garden said.
The good news: There will be exemptions and discounts for Hawaii residents, especially local surfers and fishermen.
To fight Illegal parking along Kuhio Highway, parking fines have been increased from $35 to $200. The Hawaii Tourism Authority is funding additional enforcement officers.
“The parking on the side of the road is going to stop. We’re not going to allow that. It’s going to be enforced,” Kanoho said.
While the flooding was devastating, many feel it provided time for the area to heal and an opportunity to start over.
Residents who live in the area say the new plan is a good start, but some feel that the limit of 900 daily visitors is still too high.
BEA CHANDLER, WAINIHA RESIDENT>
“How do you feel about having 900 people sitting in your yard every day? I’d like them to give at least one day for this side of the island — no tourists,” Wainiha resident Bea Chandler said.
“This was divine intervention. Our community had become so overrun by visitors,” Wichman said. “We have created a system so that residents will not have to make an advance reservation and in fact we’ll have reserved parking areas for residents so our goal is to really bring the community back to the park.”