By Tommy Noyes

Officer in Charge U.S. Air Force Major Craig Devore (left) and County of Kaua‘i Building Division Chief Doug Haigh met in mid-June at the base of the Kawaihau Boardwalk to check on construction progress. This Innovative Readiness Training project will be complete by the end of July 2017 and greatly improve pedestrian, wheelchair and bicycle travel between Kawaihau Road and the coast. Photo by Tommy Noyes

Folks living on Kapa‘a’s Kawaihau Road have been seeing construction activity on the newest section of Ke Ala Hele Makalae, East Kaua‘i’s coastal walking and bicycling path. Construction should be finished by late July 2017. The completed boardwalk will provide a safe and pleasant way to travel by foot, wheelchair or bicycle between the Hundley Heights area of Kawaihau Road and the coast.

This elevated boardwalk is being built in a series of two-week-long Innovative Readiness Training rotations of military personnel.

The Pentagon approved the County of Kaua‘i’s application for an IRT civil engineering mission. IRT missions entail traveling to the host community, setting up facilities, delivering services, and then withdrawing, all within a very brief period of time. For 10 days in June, a different IRT mission — Tropic Care Kaua‘i 2017 — provided a broad range of medical services at no cost to the patient.

“Building the Kawaihau Boardwalk is a good opportunity for us to gain experience with a different construction method,” said U.S. Air Force Major Craig Devore, of the 200th Red Horse Squadron and the officer in charge of the Kawaihau Boardwalk IRT mission’s second rotation.

The Red Horse Squadron operates out of the Mansfield Air National Guard Base in Ohio. Their tasking in peacetime is to train for contingency and wartime operations, and they participate regularly in Joint Chiefs of Staff and major command exercises such as IRT, military operations other than war, and civic action programs.

Personnel from other branches of the U.S. military are also collaborating in this training mission. The work force in each rotation of this mission numbers approximately 50 military personnel, with a total of five rotations. A smaller 25-member preparatory Red Horse Squadron contingent started work in May.

Calvin Miyahara of KSF, Inc., a structural and construction engineering firm based on O‘ahu, designed the Kawaihau Boardwalk. “Calvin specified fiberglass-reinforced polymer (“FRP”) structural members for this build because FRP is lightweight and relatively easy to work with, and it won’t rot or corrode,” said Doug Haigh, chief of the County of Kaua‘i’s building division.

Tommy Noyes

Kawaihau Road connects a densely populated residential area with Kuhio Highway. Pedestrians and bicyclists currently traveling to and from the coast have two options: using either Kawaihau Road or the existing substandard path. Neither option is appealing. Busy Kawaihau Road has curves and no sidewalks. A bicyclist descending Kawaihau Road can roll downhill and keep pace with motor traffic, but most cyclists won’t ride under those circumstances. Bicycling slowly up Kawaihau Road impedes motor traffic, and passing bicyclists is unsafe due to the curves, the fast moving vehicles coming downhill, and the short sight lines. The existing path is deteriorated and runs straight up a very steep slope, making it difficult for pedestrians, impractical for bicyclists, and virtually impossible for people in wheelchairs.

When completed, the boardwalk will connect Kawaihau residences to the coast with a walkable, bikeable, and Americans with Disabilities Act compliant route.

  • Tommy Noyes is Kaua‘i Path’s executive director, a League of American Bicyclists Certified Instructor and active with the Kaua‘i Medical Reserve Corps.