The ‘Forgotten Coast’
For several years now, the Hamakua Coast, particularly the ahupua‘a between Kolekole and Hakalau bridges, has been in a state of ongoing deterioration.
Many of us have tried to understand, what with the Leilani Estates eruption devastation and the COVID-19 pandemic diverting precious resources toward the afflicted. Patience was, we thought, a virtue to be shared by all of us on the Big Island. But the back burner is on fire here now with a cascade of transportation, community safety and recreational access issues.
Kaiwiki Homestead Road bridge at Kolekole has been shut down for years off and on (now on). Kolekole Park as had off and on access (now on), but only from the belt highway. The Kolekole Gulch road through Wailea has been blocked for years.
Hakalau Beach, which was cleaned up and landscaped by the Honoli‘i Paka group years ago, is now shuttered from general public access as the lower bridge there stands unrepaired. This has also been going on for years.
Currently, there is a blockade at Kolekole Bridge on the belt highway that allows only two cars to pass at a time due to either structural issues or ongoing evaluation of structural integrity. (Last Friday) it took 30 minutes to move from Chinchuck Road to the bridge itself, and traffic was backed up for perhaps a mile or more in either direction.
Mauka residents on Kaiwiki Homestead Road are now detoured up Chinchuck Road to an older road with a bridge that has limited capacity to carry large loads of supplies, and many emergency vehicles are also too heavy to cross that old bridge.
The community is now totally unsure of future access issues, and things seem to have spiraled into a logistical nightmare for farmers, ranchers, people who need to get to work, homeowners, fishers, surfers and those needing emergency vehicle access or trauma rescue treatment.
The much debated “infrastructure bill” can hopefully provide some assistance, but it is well beyond the point of debate that we are in a dire situation now.
The political campaigns are over, and the representatives in local, state and congressional houses need to start addressing the needs of the community now or Hamakua will truly be the “Forgotten Coast.”
Stephen R. Skipper