More Delays for Kalaupapa Trail Repair

After three months of halted access to the Kalaupapa settlement because of an eroded bridge along the pali trail, National Park Service (NPS) officials say it could take another three months before the trail re-opens to the public. The closure has left Kalaupapa’s visitor industry – the mule rides and charter tours – struggling for survival.

“We’re slowly dying,” Roy Horner said of his business, Molokai Mule Ride. “There are no ways to make money right now.”

Originally slated to re-open by the end of June, the bridge on switchback No. 2 has a new tentative schedule. By the end of July, the NPS aims to have the geotechnical assessment – used to examine site substances and any potential risks – completed so that installation of bridge anchors can begin the following month. The bridge foundation and actual bridge installment are expected to take place throughout September and October.

“The new timeline extends the completion into October,” NPS Superintendent Steve Prokop said, “but nothing is set in stone.”

The new 65-foot bridge prefabricated in the continental U.S. will be made of high-grade aluminum and will be held in place by two concrete end structures. Currently in its place is a temporary wood bridge for state worker use only.

The trail has been off limits to hikers, visitors and mule rides since April 13 when a mudslide damaged the footbridge on the second switchback of the trail. During this time, mule rides and other tours to the isolated peninsula have been cut off, causing tourism to lag and businesses to suffer.

“It’s going to take creativity, some good fortune, and a little magic to make it until fall,” Horner said.

Horner said he has not received any assistance from NPS or other agencies. While he hopes his workers and mules can help bring down material and supplies for the new bridge, the lack of work is still taking a major toll.

“Every time there is an extra delay, it creates a bigger challenge,” he said.

Although his company is still running air charter tours to Kalaupapa, business has been slow, Horner said. Clare Mawae, owner of Molokai Outdoors, which also offers tours of the settlement, said she has been directing clients to Horner to help him stay afloat.

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