Expert weighs in on bridge potential for hazardous Kauai trail

Hanakapiai Stream, Kalalau Valley, Kauai

One of the most dramatic rescues ever on Kauai will cost a lot of money.

While an exact dollar amount has yet to be released, firefighters had to fly out 121 hikers near Hanakapiai Stream over a two-day period after fast-flowing waters made the stream impassable.

Dept. of Land and Natural Resources director William Aila told KHON2 the idea of building a bridge over the stream in Kalalau Valley makes sense.

Engineer Panos Prevedouros agrees.

“I think the actual bridge, if we build it out of lumber, would be pretty inexpensive, perhaps in the order of $10,000,” he said. “However, getting in there, doing the surveys, building the foundation, bringing in the materials and all, could easily make this well over $100,000.”

Aila says plans for such a bridge are in the works. “What makes it very difficult to construct and design for is this is in a very remote area,” Aila said.

“We do have potential funding that can begin the entitlement process in terms of getting the permits, getting some preliminary engineering done,” Aila continued. “We’re in the process of doing this.  It will probably be done, but in a time frame that reflects how difficult it is to build things in wilderness areas.”

Aila says completion of such a project is years away. In the meantime, he urges hikers to be careful.

“If you plan to hike on the Hanakapiai trail, which as many as 500,000 people in a year do, you must be prepared that if there is some rainfall that makes the stream crossing too dangerous to occur at the moment, be patient,” Aila said.

Prevedouros says it would be impractical to build pedestrian bridges over every stream in DLNR parks. However, “a few high-risk locations where we have had fatalities, we have instances again and again in the news, they need to be addressed,” he said.

Prevedouros envisions a wooden pedestrian bridge at the stream crossing.

“Building a concrete bridge in the middle of the forest, you know, in a hike and along a trail, it wouldn’t be compatible,” he said.

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