From flood devastation to a model for the entire state — that’s how officials described the restoration of Hā‘ena at a community blessing and bill signing by Governor Ige last month. The Kaua‘i ceremony marked the anticipated reopening of Kūhiō Highway and Hā‘ena State Park, the gateway to the famed Kalalau Trail along the Nāpali Coast. It also recognized legislators, community leaders and county and state departments who have worked together to restore the area for local residents and visitors.
Gov. Ige signed HB329 (Act 35) that extends disaster relief funds so residents in Hā‘ena and Wainiha can continue to rebuild their lives. He also praised the community as a model for sustainable tourism and practices. “This is home to the first Community-Based Subsistence Fishing Area in Hawai‘i. Congratulations for being able to show what it means to take responsibility for managing our ocean resources.”
The Department of Land and Natural Resources ( DLNR) Division of State Parks, Kaua‘i County and other organizations are implementing a long-planned effort to control the number of visitors to the area. This includes a new reservation system for park entrance, a shuttle system to reduce the number of vehicles traveling into Hā‘ena State Park, higher fines for people who park illegally, a new parking lot and stepped-up enforcement. The intent is to reduce daily visitors from an estimated 3,000 people each day to 900. For details on the new system in place, go to http://dlnr.hawaii.gov/dsp/parks/kauai/haena-state-park/. Hawai‘i residents are exempt from the reservation process to enter the park, but they need to provide valid identification to staff. However, parking is limited and available on a first come, first-served basis. Non-residents will need an entry ticket.
DLNR Chair Suzanne Case talked about the positive community action that came in the wake of the April floods “Our challenge is creating bridges between the old world and our modern world, between kama‘aina and our visitors. It’s a lot of contradictions to hold, but today is a reconciliation between an event that was so devastating and scary — and a new day. That’s why we’re here.” Ed Sniffen, head of the Department of Transportation Highways Division, recalled past visits where all he saw was damage and debris. “Today was the first time I could look out the window and see the beauty of this community . . . a community that reminds everybody of what real strength is.”