Heather Nelson sprints to the finish line after completing the ocean kayaking leg in the 2017 Ski to Sea seven-stage, multi-sport relay competition for her eight-person team, Brandon Nelson Partners. Fairhaven, Wash. has produced this annual event since 1973. It engages more than three thousand competitors while many thousands more attend the town’s festival. Photo by Tommy Noyes

By Tommy Noyes

At the time of this writing, Kaua‘i’s record of suppressing COVID-19’s spread is among the best in the nation. Advised by public health and medical professionals, our state and county officials did their jobs and aggressively implemented precautions. Mahalo to all for your diligence and cooperation!

Now our community faces the challenge of our lifetime: getting back to work and reviving Kaua‘i’s post-pandemic economy. Many recovery strategies are going to be proposed, and it will take years of effort. Here are a few concepts for consideration in a 10-year recovery program. These recommendations are intended to both strengthen community bonds and increase Kaua‘i’s visitor appeal as the travel industry will become even more fiercely competitive.

Let’s get creative producing large scale participatory events and festivals unique to our special environment that celebrate fitness and collaboration. Start by expanding the 2021 annual Mayor-a-Thon event with increased promotions, activities and attractions.

Major annual multi-sport relay competitions could showcase our island’s most unique natural assets. Imagine competitors passing the baton from one relay team member to the next along a mixed series of competitive events.

Sports could include activities as kayaking, mountain biking, six-person outrigger canoe paddling, distance running, open-ocean swimming, trail running, road biking and traversing a commando course. Each year, a different town could host the central festival. We could celebrate with events that are suitable for multiple fitness levels, not just elite athletes, and feature indigenous Hawaiian makahiki games. The possibilities and benefits are limitless.

We should continue to build community infrastructure that supports walking, bicycling and public transit. We are close to completing Lihu‘e’s Rice Street district improvements and Ke Ala Hele Makalae’s Lydgate Park to Kapa‘a gap. Completing the remaining phases of Ke Ala Hele Makalae for a contiguous walking and bicycling corridor connecting Anahola to Niumalu and Lihu‘e within 10 years is achievable.

Safety improvements on Po‘ipu Road, based on the community design charrette from a few years ago, will add to the appeal of a prime visitor destination area. Include improving the Po‘ipu-to-Koloa’s Hapa Trail to shared-use path standards, construct a path paralleling the planned Northerly Bypass that will connect Ala Kalanikaumaka to Ala Kinoiki, and transform the cane haul road to a path connecting Ala Kinoiki and Po‘ipu Road.

Implementing the active transportation recommendations that the community called for in the West Kaua‘i Community Plan and rehabilitating the impassable Powerline Trail for hikers, hunters and mountain bikers are both ambitious but realistic.

Visitor spending is the engine powering Kaua‘i’s economy. Active transportation investments both drive our economic recovery through construction jobs created during the building phase and enhance the appeal of our prime assets. Effective and equitable economic stimulus efforts will promote public health and wellness by increasing attractive ways to get exercise during our normal daily routines.

Broad-based fiscal returns on these investments can be generated by creating and promoting public events and festivals that celebrate our community’s wellness and fitness. Investing in these ideas will generate economic recovery.

  • 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.