More than a year after an epic flood devastated Kauai’s north shore, residents, emergency responders, construction workers and public officials gathered Wednesday to celebrate the reopening of Haena State Park.

The park, which contains some of Kauai’s most celebrated features including the end-of-the-road Kee lagoon, now has better parking and a 900-person daily visitor cap to help alleviate environmental and cultural impacts of overtourism. A community-run shuttle system will also help ease local road traffic.

Kauai police and county officials in April 2018 toured the portions of Kuhio Highway in Wainiha and Haena that were most severely damaged by landslides. Courtesy of Kauai County

But the park is not yet open to the masses because public access is still not restored to the two-miles stretch of Kuhio Highway that was damaged in 2018 during a disastrous springtime flood. The road is expected to reopen before the end of the month.

Kauai police and county officials in April 2018 toured the portions of Kuhio Highway in Wainiha and Haena that were most severely damaged by landslides.

Developed with community input, the vast changes to parking and entry at Haena State Park signal a shift in park management that acknowledges the strain imposed by the tourism industry on delicate natural and community resources.

At the event, Gov. David Ige signed a bill introduced by State Rep. Nadine K. Nakamura to extend disaster relief funds for areas affected by the disastrous 2018 flooding. HB329 HD1 SD2 amends the Kauai flooding disaster relief appropriation, extending the lapse date of the funding appropriation to June 30, 2020. The amendment also allows officials to use the funds for disaster mitigation.

“This one-year extension gives the state … one additional year to continue the important work of rebuilding more resilient communities,” Nakamura said.

Rep. Sylvia Luke, Chair of the House Finance Committee, said in emergency situations it takes everyone working together to first protect lives and property and then to rebuild stricken communities.

“Working with your Kauai delegation and the governor we were able to get the emergency funding to provide immediate relief,” Luke said at the event. “But you are the ones who endured the disruption in your lives. I’d like to echo … acknowledgment and gratitude for the community members who worked tirelessly on the recovery efforts, and to make sure that in putting this beautiful place back together again, we made sure to do it right.”

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