Bridge Open between Hana and Kipahulu
The Maui News
|John Lind (from left), Kahu Charles Kauluwehi Maxwell Sr., Tweetie Lind and Mayor Alan Arakawa head a procession of people across the temporary Paihi bridge on Sunday afternoon during a blessing ceremony. Following the quakes on Oct. 15, the Paihi Bridge sustained damage and was closed after officials deemed it dangerous and unstable.
The Maui News / LEHIA APANA photo
WAILUA – Isolated East Maui residents traveled from Kipahulu to Hana by car for the first time Sunday since structural damage from the Oct. 15 earthquakes forced the closure of Paihi Bridge.
Dozens of area residents joined Mayor Alan Arakawa in officially opening a temporary bridge that was constructed to handle traffic until repairs are completed on Paihi Bridge, which is in Wailua between Hana town and Kipahulu.
"I know it's been a very stressful and trying time," the mayor told residents who attended the bridge's opening and blessing Sunday afternoon.
Kipahulu resident Angela Tavares said members of the community struggled during the bridge closure, and she was excited to have vehicle access to Hana again.
Since the closure, Maui County sponsored food supply drops to the stranded communities with the help of the Hawaii National Guard as well as other organizations.
"It was tough, but all the old ways came back, and we did what we had to do," Tavares said, adding that she had enjoyed the quiet time and slowed pace that came when vehicle traffic stopped.
"I have mixed feelings about the (temporary) bridge because life has been so wonderful," Tavares said. "The pace slowed down, and there weren't as many cars traveling on the road."
County spokeswoman Lynn Araki-Regan said many people came to the rescue of area residents.
"There's so many countless individuals who have gone out of their way to address the needs of the Kaupo and Kipahulu communities," Araki-Regan said.
"This is a fine example of how communities come together," added Kahu Charles Kauluwehi Maxwell Sr., who performed the blessing.
The ceremony began with a Hawaiian chant and prayer and concluded with attendees slowly walking across the new bridge, led by Arakawa and Maxwell.
Hawaiian Dredging Construction Co. was hired by the county to build the temporary 120-foot-long steel replacement bridge span, which was constructed parallel to the damaged bridge, originally built in 1911.
The mayor also addressed concerns about the closure of portions of Piilani Highway because of hazardous rock overhangs and fallen boulders at Manawainui.
County officials have warned residents of Kipahulu and Kaupo about the danger posed by unstable cliffs along Piilani Highway at Lelekea and Manawainui. The earthquakes increased the threat of falling rocks. An inspection report by Geolabs-Hawaii is expected to lead to a plan to stabilize cliff areas.
"Give us some time and be a little patient, and we're going to make this community safe," Arakawa said. "It's going to take a lot of time, energy and money to do it."
The mayor said it's important for people to understand the hazards that exist in the area, and he stressed that the county is very serious about helping the East Maui community.
"It's really an issue of safety versus chancing it," he said. "Hopefully, we can all work together to find the best way to make it safe."
Lehia Apana can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Copyright © 2005 The Maui News.
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