Hakalau park to remain closed for foreseeable future

  • Tribune-Herald file photo Hakalau Beach Park was closed in 2017.

Hakalau Beach Park likely will remain closed for the foreseeable future as the state Department of Transportation plans a multi-million-dollar project to repair the nearby bridge.

Hakalau Beach Park and the nearby Kolekole Beach Park closed in 2017 because of public health hazards caused by lead contamination in the soil. But while Kolekole Beach Park was reopened in 2020, Hakalau remains closed.

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Both parks were closed because lead-based paint from the nearby Hakalau and Kolekole bridges chipped off and contaminated the soil. The paint itself was removed from the bridges, but because the contaminants originated from state DOT infrastructure, it remains the DOT’s responsibility to remove the lingering contamination.

In 2020, DOT representatives announced that although the lead contamination at Kolekole Beach Park could be removed, allowing the park to safely reopen, the contamination at Hakalau Beach Park was too extensive to be easily removed.

Last week, DOT spokeswoman Shelly Kunishige reiterated that point, stating that a project to restore the park is not expected to begin until fiscal year 2023.

Kunishige said the soil remediation project at Hakalau has been combined with a greater bridge rehabilitation project, and the two projects will be completed in tandem.

There are few details about the bridge rehabilitation project, which is currently still in its design phase. However, Kunishige said it has a $62.8 million budget, which suggests extensive repairs up to or including a total replacement.

Hawaii County Parks and Recreation Director Maurice Messina said last week that his department is not involved with reopening Hakalau Beach Park. He said a DOT inspector came out to the park earlier this month, but he did not know what their work entailed. Kunishige said it was a routine inspection of the deteriorating bridge.

The Hakalau Bridge is currently ranked 21 out of the 746 bridges in the state highways system, wherein lower rankings indicate higher priority for repairs. Nearby Kolekole Bridge, which was reduced to a maximum weight limit of 4 tons last week because of structural deterioration, is ranked 37. The limit was increased to 12 tons Monday.

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The only other bridge on the island ranked lower than Hakalau Bridge is the Singing Bridge in Hilo at rank 19. According to the DOT, a $700,000 repair project for that bridge is 90% complete.

Email Michael Brestovansky at mbrestovansky@hawaiitribune-herald.com.