Kuhio Highway on Kauai’s North Shore has been closed since April 2018 after devastating flooding caused millions of dollars in damage to the Wainiha and Haena area.
The damage was also done to the only road in and out of the area. The Department of Transportation has also been working on the bridges in the area as well.
Although it was devastating, many residents say the flood in April 2018 was a blessing.
“We’re grateful for the storm because it helped,” said Haena resident Lahela Chandler Correa. “Mother Nature had helped to stop what was happening.”
Haena and Wainiha residents say their community was becoming overrun by visitors.
“There was no regulation they [visitors] could park anywhere they like, they could choke the roads so our EMT’s and firemen could not even get through it had become a crisis,” said Chipper Wichman, president of the National Tropical Botanical Garden.
But when Haena State Park reopens, there will be new restrictions to limit the number of visitors.
There will be an online reservation system which will cap the number of visitors to the park to 900 people a day. Prior to the flood, DLNR officials estimate there were about 3,000 visitors to the park a day.
There will also be an entry fee for non-Hawaii residents.
The parking lot will have 100 spaces and no parking will be allowed along Kuhio Highway or people will be faced with a $200 fine.
Visitors will also be given a brief orientation about the park and the area’s cultural resources.
“You have to think about what is the balance of tourism and preserving our lands and preserving our resources,” said Rep. Sylvia Luke (D) Makiki, Nuuanu, Pauoa.
But some residents are still re-building and many businesses won’t be open when the road does.
“As a business owner, I can’t really afford to open and not be full on busy, so with all the work they’re doing in Hanalei and those delays I’ll probably just wait,” said Darci Frankel, owner of Hanalei Day Spa.
She says other businesses have been forced to close all together without there being any business.
“There’s a lot of individuals who have suffered,” she said.
But all residents agree on one thing, the 14-month closure has brought their community together.
“For years we’ve been so diluted with guests and visitors we haven’t really had an opportunity to gel as a community and so that did give us the chance to do that,” Frankel said.
Kuhio Highway is set to open on June 17.
Permits and reservations to visit Haena State Park are not yet available, we’ll let you know when you can book.