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Because the island’s two main population centers—Kapaa and Lihue—are located on Kauai’s East Side, that area was designated for the Garden Island’s first, and most ambitious, shared-use path system. Ke Ala Hele Makalae, which means “the path that goes along the coast,” is a federally funded effort undertaken by our local government to develop active transportation facilities along that section of coastline for everyone to enjoy in perpetuity.

EAST SIDE

This project gained momentum in 1990s with the vision of securing public access to connect communities along the coast from Anahola to Lihue, a distance of about 20 miles. During Maryann Kusaka’s time in the mayor’s office the project was divided into six phases. She tasked the Public Works Department’s Building Division with coordinating the development. Collaborating with Friends of Kamalani & Lydgate Park volunteers, the County started with 2.5 miles of path in Lydgate Beach Park as Phase I, completed in 2003 during Mayor Bryan Baptiste’s administration.

Phase II, opened in 2009 shortly after Mayor Bernard Carvalho took office, mainly follows haul cane routes along the coast from Lihi Boat Ramp in Kapaa north to Kuna Bay, a distance of about four miles. Although not contiguous with the Lydgate Beach Park path, that section was selected for the second phase because it was relatively easy to improve. It consists mainly of open territory, and followed existing coastal travel ways donated to the County by real estate developers who’d purchased a large tract of former sugar cane fields.
 

Phase III, still being developed as of 2024, proved much more challenging than the first two Phases. Difficulties included protests about aligning the path along the Wailua Beach, property acquisition in the more populated Waipouli and Kapaa areas, and a major elevation transition for a spur from the coast to the Kawaihau Road community. These issues were resolved with assistance from US Senator Daniel Inouye, persistence, and the deployment of military reservists in the Innovative Readiness Training program to build the 1,500 foot long Kawaihau Elevated Boardwalk in 2017. A short segment in Waipouli—now a soft surface path—is yet to be built as a development condition imposed on interests planning resorts in that area.

The environmental work required for Phases IV and VI is essentially complete. That eight mile section of the path will connect Lydgate Beach Park to Hanamaulu and Lihue. As of the first quarter of 2024, that portion of the project is awaiting a crucial and long overdue response from the State Historic Preservation Division of the Department of Land and Natural Resources before the County can advance to releasing formal requests for design-build proposals.

Entitlement work on the final connection—Phase V from Anahola to Kuna Bay—is currently in suspension, pending exertion of political will by a future mayoral administration.

Phase 1: Lydgate Park and Phase 2: Kapa'a to Ahihi Point are both complete. Phase 3: Lydgate Park to Kapaa is still under construction, with only a x mile long segment left unpaved between the Sheraton and Kauai Coast Resort, which is still accessible for use.

 

The entire path, stretching from Lydgate Park to Ahihi Point, is 7.6 miles long and connects with more than a dozen pavilions, three playgrounds, many accessible beaches, and Kapaa’s commercial core.

WHAT EXISTS TODAY

PHASE 3 CONSTRUCTION

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