Work may finally start again this week on the scenic boardwalk through
the Kealia Pond National Wildlife Refuge. According to a refuge
spokesperson, on Tuesday, Sept. 19 construction work should begin again
on the 2,200-foot boardwalk.
The coastal boardwalk has been empty for more than a year—even the bright
orange plastic netting strung around to keep people away is falling
apart. But now workers from Kahului-based Central Construction—the same
outfit that built the boardwalk in the first place—will hopefully soon
be tearing out the plastic boards to make way for new decking made by
Trex. That material, a composite made from “recycled plastic grocery
bags, reclaimed pallet wrap and waste wood,” is guaranteed for at least
25 years and is supposed to resist moisture, sunlight and insects,
according to the company’s website.
Kahului firm Aloha Plastic Recyling was originally supposed to
manufacture the planking from 1.5 million milk jugs, but nowhere near
that number ever materialized That forced the company to draw 90
percent of its recycled plastic from the mainland.
The project was also supposed to cost $2.2 million—provided by a grant
from the Federal Highway Administration (FHA)—but the new job of
tearing apart and rebuilding the as-yet unused boardwalk will add at
least $600,000 to $700,000 to the budget, said Central Construction
manager Stanley Matsumoto. He added that the funds will come from a
“cost-sharing arrangement” between FHA and his firm.
This new work couldn’t come at a better time—with summer ending this
weekend, that big orange sign by the makai side of North Kihei Road is
threatening to become a really pathetic joke.
“Boardwalk scheduled to open summer 2006 pending parking lot
completion,” it taunts passing drivers as it stands over a couple piles
of gravel, conex container and a conspicuous lack of any paved parking
lot. But then again, the seemingly endless delays in the opening of the
2,200-foot scenic boardwalk through the Kealia refuge never had much to
do with the proposed parking lot.
After four months of construction—which itself was delayed a couple
months because of rain and to accommodate “nesting season”—it was
during final inspection in January 2005 when construction officials
noticed severe cracking in many of the recycled plastic lumber used for
the boardwalk’s decking. Officials said the problem was partly due to
the material itself not taking to the intense Kihei sun but also a
result of the absurd order to nail—rather than screw—the plastic planks
to their wooden supports.
“We had found that the plastic material was not [made] according to
specifications,” says Kealia refuge manager Glynnis Nakai. “Nailing was
one of the problems, but it’s a moot point now because we have to
replace all the plastic material.”
If it ever opens, the boardwalk will provide an unparalleled hike
(6/10ths of a mile) through some of the state’s last natural wildlife
habitat. The mudflats and wetlands of the refuge—used by U.S. Marines
for amphibious warfare training in World War II—is home to rare and
endangered Hawaiian stilts, coots, Hawaiian ducks, black-crowned night
herons, pacific golden plovers, sanderlings, wandering tattlers and
How long this new work will take is, as is typical for Maui
construction jobs, anybody’s guess. After all, a Kealia news release
dated Aug. 4, 2004 mentioned that boardwalk planning had been ongoing
since 1996. Matsumoto said about three months, but Nakai laughed when I
asked her for an estimate.
“A few months?” she said. “Anything can happen.” MTW