Kaua'i bike path first in 'lei'
By Christie Wilson
Advertiser Neighbor Island Editor
An abandoned cane-haul road will form the core of a $7.2 million bicycle and pedestrian path along the East Kaua'i shoreline.
The 12-foot-wide trail will be built by improving an existing asphalt path in the Kapa'a town area and paving a former Lihu'e Plantation cane-haul road to 'Ahihi Point. The rough road already is used by mountain bikers and joggers. Cane-haul bridges along the coastline also will be improved.
The project is one link in what is envisioned as an "emerald lei" of greenways and paths around the island, said Laurie Ho, coordinator of the federal Garden Island Resource Conservation and Development Council.
The county has received $300,000 in federal money for planning, permitting and environmental studies for the Kapa'aiKealia route. Construction money will come from a Federal Highways Administration grant, said Doug Haigh of the Kaua'i County Department of Public Works. The project is expected to start next summer and continue through 2004.
Federal money also paid for a 2.1-mile bike and pedestrian path in Wailua, south of Kapa'a, that is expected to be completed in the next few weeks.
Further in the future is a 2-mile path from Wailua to Kapa'a, Haigh said.
The trails figure in a long-running community effort to develop a Kaua'i Health and Heritage Corridor providing opportunities for recreation while preserving former cane-haul truck and railroad routes.
After the plantation closed and former sugar lands were sold to developers, the public began to lose access to secluded shoreline long used by fishermen and others, Ho said. The goal is to establish a 90-mile bike path from Polihale on the western end to Ha'ena on the northern end, she said.
"Slowly by slowly, we're getting there. We can't do it all at one time," Ho said.
The Kapa'aiKealia leg would not have been possible without the gift of 67 acres of makai land from the developers of the Kealia Kai subdivision, Haigh said. The property provides access to Kealia Beach and Kumukumu, or Donkey Beach.
"Once you get out of the residential areas, it's only you and nature and the shoreline. It will be the most beautiful bike path in the world," Haigh said.
A smaller section will be on state land running from Kawaihau Road to Kapa'a Stream that was once leased to the plantation. Haigh said the state is expected to deed that land to the county.
Pavilions, restrooms and parking will be built at Lihi Park and Kealia Beach Park, which currently has no such facilities. Another restroom will be built at a parking lot serving a beach access through Kealia Kai. And a new parking and rest area will be provided near the Kealia Lookout.
Cyclist Laurel Brier commutes 30 miles a day and has been involved in various efforts during the past 25 years to create a system of bike paths on Kaua'i.
"It's a beautiful course," she said.