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Kalaupapa Trail Makes Headway

For the isolated peninsula of Kalaupapa, the trail that zigzags along its overlooking cliffs is nothing short of a lifeline. That lifeline was cut after a mudslide destroyed a section of the trail last month. Now, restoration efforts are gaining ground as workers prepare to install an approximately 65-foot bridge prefabricated in the continental U.S.

The high-grade aluminum span will replace the temporary bridge constructed on switchback No. 2 of the pali trail. To ensure maximum stability, the new bridge will be held in place by two concrete end structures as well as other stabilization techniques along its full length. 

Construction of the new bridge is expected to take another eight to 10 weeks. In the meantime, the trail remains off limits to all visitors, hikers and mule rides since the National Park Service (NPS) deemed the trail hazardous after the bridge was damaged by adverse weather on April 13.

Bridge replacement costs will total about $200,000 – $50,000 more than the initial estimates, said Steve Prokop, NPS Kalaupapa superintendent. 

Anchored by bolts drilled into rocks, the bridge will safely hold people and mule train weights. Prokop said the new structure will have wood decking and railings, while the aluminum will be painted brown to blend in with the wood. 

“Aesthetics is very important,” he said. “Especially because it’s a historical trail.”

Prokop added that the new bridge is the best technology has to offer, calling it “state of the art.”

Prokop stresses that the trail remains closed to the public until the new bridge is installed and equipped for safe passage. Only Kalaupapa residents are allowed to have access to the makeshift bridge for emergency access, he said.

Once the trail re-opens, hikers and visitors must have a permit to utilize the route and enter the settlement. Those interested are advised to contact Damien Tours.

Former Committee Revived
The Federal Kalaupapa Advisory Committee has been re-instituted by Congress, and will hold its first meeting on June 24. Its duties are to advise the NPS on operations and policy at Kalaupapa National Historical Park.

Seven patients and four non-patients have been appointed to the committee. Former committee chair Reverend David Kalapu, born and raised on Molokai, will again head up the advisory, said Mark Miller, Kalaupapa Department of Health administrator. 

NPS first established the committee in 1980 as a legislative advisory commission to the park. Its charter expired in 2005, and the committee has been recently reauthorized for another 25 years, according to Prokop. 

“It took a lot of time because of the change in administration,” he added. 

Prokop said the first meeting in Kalaupapa will include discussions of the General Management Plan for the park, an update on the memorial project, and updates on clerk operations.

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