Back in 2004, a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service press release applauded the people of Maui for their patience in waiting for the construction of the Kealia Boardwalk to begin. Four years later, it seems that patience may be wearing a bit thin as the most recent chapter in this ill-fated saga involves vandals defacing signs in the area.
The words “JOKE” and “BULLSHIT” appeared nearly two months ago on orange construction signs at the Kealia boardwalk. This could be due to the complete lack of activity at the construction site or, possibly, that many people may agree with those sentiments. With the construction of a new parking lot hanging in permitting limbo, there is still no estimated opening date for the boardwalk in sight.
“Sure it’s frustrating, but it’ll be well worth the wait,” Glynniss Nakai, the Kealia Pond National Wildlife Refuge manager, said.
Nakai, an extremely diligent public employee, is stuck in the middle of this disaster. Forced time and again to answer for and defend this floundering project, Nakai somehow remains as upbeat and enthusiastic about the boardwalk as the day it was conceived. Despite all the project’s difficulties, delays and setbacks, she can’t wait to tell people about the new interpretive installations being created by local graphic artists.
“The staff here too has been great,” Nakai said of her fellow refuge employees. She added that calls come in pretty much daily from people wondering what’s going on with the stalled construction.
“We even get calls from the Mainland from people who have been to Maui and want to know if the boardwalk is finished yet,” Nakai said.
For now, residents and visitors alike will have to continue to exercise that seemingly endless patience. The boardwalk will remain closed until the parking lot is finished. With this project’s history, that could be months or even years away.
“It’s simply too unsafe for people [to park] along that stretch of road,” Nakai said. Until there’s a proper parking lot at the boardwalk, she said, there’s no good entry for traffic on North Kihei Road. Nakai added that for their own safety, people should stay off the boardwalk until it officially opens.
Permits to finish the parking lot are only the latest hang-up for this star-crossed public works project. First there were the building materials. Recycled plastic composite board supplied by Aloha Plastics for the boardwalk splintered and warped soon after construction workers pounded the last nail. Then the blame game started.
Was it faulty installation or substandard product? Central Contracting, who finished their end of the project back in September by replacing the boards—using screws instead of nails—remains in business. Aloha Plastics is not.
So as the seasons pass, and generations of birds fly in and out of Kealia Pond, the boardwalk will remain an idle bridge to nowhere. And even if the public finally loses its patience and even interest, we know we can count on Glynniss Nakai to remain positive enough for the rest of us.
“It’s going to be really cool when it’s finished,” Nakai said. MTW