The state Board of Land and Natural Resources reviewed May 25 the draft Hā‘ena State Parks Master Plan. The board recommended that Gov. David Ige accept the Final Environmental Impact Statement, and delegated authority to the Chair of the Board to approve the final Master Plan following acceptance of the EIS by Ige, according to the state Department of Land and Natural Resources.
Since 2008, the DLNR Division of State Parks, through its consultant PBR Hawai‘i, has worked in collaboration with members of the Hā‘ena Community Advisory Committee composed of community stakeholders, lineal descendants, members of Hui Maka‘ainana o Makana, Aha Moku and the greater Hāʻena community, to develop a master plan to help establish park elements with minimal physical improvements to this iconic and very popular Kaua‘i State Park.
The plan identifies the critical need to address the increasing amounts of visitor related traffic issues and associated impacts in order to protect significant cultural resources, protect public safety, maintain this parkʻs unique natural beauty and ambiance and attempt to reduce impacts to the adjacent local communities and residents. The overarching goal is to balance out-of-state visitor use with access for local residents, fishers, cultural practitioners and other members of the Kaua‘i community.
This plan represents the State Parks Division’s first attempt actually to reduce daily patronage by establishing a targeted limit of 900 visitors each day – down from the approximate 2,000 people each day visiting the park before the April 14 flood (the park remains closed indefinitely).
Hā‘ena State Park is at the end of the road on Kaua‘i’s North Shore. It hosts the popular Kē‘ē beach and is the gateway to the Nāpali Coast State Wilderness Park and the Kalalau Trail.
This park unit is visited by hundreds of thousands of people each year. Local residents have asked that State Parks come up with a plan to lessen the development footprint in the park, address critical infrastructure needs and overcrowding issues by vehicles and pedestrians.
The draft master plan as proposed by State Parks envisions a Welcome Hale near an improved main parking lot composed of pervious material for water percolation and be designed to accommodate 100 vehicles. The lot will also be designed in a manner support third-party or Kaua‘i County shuttles to the park – an element outside of the responsibility and scope of State Parks, but determined a very worthwhile and innovative method to reduce individual rental car traffic and accommodate visitors need for access.
There would be additional interpretive and informational signs installed and two small comfort stations. A new pedestrian boardwalk is proposed that will provide pedestrians safe access along taro lo‘i and offer views of the peak of Makana, while directing walkers away from rockfall hazard areas. The new restrooms proposed near the main parking lot are hoped to be designed using the latest proven green wastewater treatment technology.
DLNR Division of State Parks Assistant Administrator Alan Carpenter, who has been instrumental in working with the community and the consultant on this plan for the past 10 years said, “We are very grateful for the community support and will continue this relationship as we maintain the current Advisory Committee and also work to establish a Cultural Advisory Committee to advise State Parks on the design and implementation of park improvements and management. We think these are important steps to be sure that all management actions we take at Hāʻena include thorough consultation with primary stakeholders – the people who live at Hāʻena.” The plan supports continued restoration of an Agricultural Complex and encourages restoration of varied historic, cultural and natural resources throughout the park.
Another recommendation is for the historic state highway that runs through the park be transferred from the State Department of Transportation to the Division of State Parks so it can be closed to general through traffic and shift the bulk of visitor traffic and parking outside potential rockfall hazard zones.
Carpenter added, “The most significant proposal in the draft master plan is to initially limit the number of park visitors. This is a major paradigm shift in Hawai‘i State Parks management. We may adjust that ceiling in time based on overall negative or positive impacts. This initial number includes day hikers heading on to the Kalalau Trail but does not include permitted overnight campers, hunters with valid permits, cemetery caretakers, volunteers attending various events, or kūpuna or cultural practioners who have cultural or ancestral ties to the area.”
“The importance of the Hāʻena State Park Master Plan and Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) has been elevated due to the impacts of recent flooding on Kaua‘i’s North Shore,” explained DLNR Chair Suzanne Case. She added, “The implementation of the plan could be facilitated and hastened utilizing disaster mitigation funds. With the BLNR’s approval today we’ll forward the EIS to the Office of Environmental Quality Control for publication and to Governor Ige for acceptance.”