Iao Valley State Monument to reopen while flooding repairs on pause

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After being closed for nearly a year, an iconic Maui landmark will partially reopen to the public on Saturday, Aug. 5, at 7 a.m.

Parts of Iao Valley State Monument were heavily damaged by severe flash flooding last September.

Repairs are ongoing, however the Department of Land and Natural Resources has decided to reopen the park temporarily as it waits for pending permit approvals to complete the project.

“The opening is kind of bittersweet, because it’s not going to be for a long time. There is still a lot of work that needs to be done,” said Curt Cottrell, administrator, Department of Land and Natural Resources’ Division of State Parks.

Man-made structures like railings and pedestrian bridges were damaged when a slow moving thunderstorm caused Wailuku River and several of its tributaries to escape their banks. The flooding triggered serious erosion, stream channel and land movement.

Crews first had to remove massive amounts of green waste, broken pathways and railings, and flood debris, then install fencing to block off critical areas.

“Then after that came the really critical part of stabilizing the slope that had washed away and determining the most efficient way to do that without damaging the stream which was really tricky,” explained Cottrell. “Then we had to move the setback farther away from the cliff in order to deal with vehicles. That ended up being the third element, which was reconfiguration of the parking area, figuring out how to reduce where bus traffic had once gone, and that was really tricky.”

Visitors will see a significant change to the slopes of the now-wider river, which now sport a revetment of stacked rocks and 300-400 feet worth of Shotcrete slope coating to prevent loose material from falling down.

Changes to the parking lot include restriping and installation of flexible traffic delineators, as well as installation of a green security guardrail fencing at various locations to keep buses only within the upper parking area, and warning signs to prevent people from getting close to the stream’s edge.

A pedestrian corridor has been marked with striping and surface repairs to the pathways leading to the Hawaiian Garden and to the summit lookout were made. The iconic pedestrian bridge over Kinihapai Stream received a new support structure, and the comfort station and upper lookout hale have been painted.

Construction is expected to resume sometime this fall after permits are approved. The Division of State Parks will hold a community meeting later this year to explain the second phase of work.

“We have a lot of tow revetment to install at the bottom in order to buttress the base of the cliff, and then more slope stabilization that has to occur,” Cottrell said. “My concern is doing it prior to another big flooding event coming, and then also trying to get the permit and the work done before the rainy season when it’s going to be harder for the contractor to work in the stream.”

Still closed is the lower streamside loop trail area in the Hawaiian garden, which sustained severe damage. It was cleaned up but will remain fenced off. State Parks is considering options for ways to make it safe for the public to enjoy.

The total cost of the project is $1,837,341.

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