The Laupahoehoe Walking Trail - Laupahoehoe Train Museum
In 2002 community volunteers and donated equipment to clear the one and a half mile section of the old Mamalahoa Highway that leads to Laupahoehoe Point from across the street from the Laupahoehoe Train Museum. This road was the main highway when trains ran where Highway 19 is today. As one of two access roads into the valley the County decided not to clear it after earthquake induced landslides blocked passage during 1973-5. Since then the community has been asking for the County to reopen the roadway. The answer was always the same, no money for an area that already has another access. As time passed grass grew, disguising the solid roadbed and dangerous cliff edges. People still walked the area but it was very dangerous. In 2002 the community took action.
After saving the county thousands of dollars by clearing the roadway with volunteer labor and machinery, we worked a deal with the county to maintain the roadway. We were working toward a partnership to open it for public use as a walking trail, connecting the upper town of Laupahoehoe with the Point. Many used it daily as a safe walking/biking trail alternative to the highway. The county wanted to have the road assessed by a geotechnical survey to determine the safety of the roadway. It has always been hoped for use as an excellent emergency access road should road closures happen on the Waipunalei Rd. or on Hwy 19. The community is grateful that the county allowed us to maintain it until their assessment was complete.
On October 15, 2006 a 6.7 ricther earthquake hit the island of Hawaii. Landslides and rocks fell on parts of the roadway almost but not completely blocking passage by bike or foot. This looked like bad news for the trail, however the county submitted the trail in its FEMA repair requests and was granted monies to clear the trail. They had started their assessment and clearing the earthquake debris would allow them to finish their assessment.
After the assessment was complete county informed us of their plan to close the roadway.It was deamed unsafe for too much of the road and at a cost that the Countyncould not find funds for in the near future. As the costs to improve the road way for a walking trail were 2 million dollars, 32 million for a emergency access only and 63 million for a thoroughfare. To protect themselves from any liabilities their decision to close this area was final.
We are saddened that the county has taken such drastic measures to put up huge barricades and forbidden entrance, as well as say they would not do any maintenance on the roadway. This is throwing away four years of community labor, and many hundreds of thousands of dollars to have it cleared by FEMA after the earthquake, only to have it closed now. A very sad situation... but we are continually looking for funding and sources of encouragement. Possibly we have that in the new administration, time will tell.