Cars packed the limited parking area at the Makapuu Lookout yesterday. The state has started a project to improve the area along Kalanianaole Highway near the lookout so hikers will not have to park on the highway.

Makapuu Point

A popular hiking spot's
$5 million face lift begins

Four years after the state bought 300 acres of Ka Iwi coastline for a state park, construction has begun on parking lots and roadside improvements to give the public better and safer access to the area.

"It's going to be safer, more scenic, and parking on the highway will be prohibited," said Dan Quinn, state parks director.

Contractor Robison Construction Inc. began work Monday on a $5 million project that will add:

» Two parking lots, one to serve the Makapuu Lookout and another for hikers heading to Makapuu Lighthouse or the Ka Iwi lowlands.

» Turning lanes on the Kalanianaole Highway for each of those lots.

» An addition of a second lookout area at Makapuu.

» Handicapped accessibility to the Makapuu Lookout.

» Landscaping with native and drought-tolerant plants.

The project also will place utility lines underground.


"Overall, it sounds like a good idea," said Kyle Stevens of Kailua, who rode a bicycle on the cratered road to the lighthouse yesterday. "I love the idea of burying the power lines."

Stevens said he hopes the roadway improvements will make things safer for everyone. Bicyclists on the highway have been hit by people opening car doors into their path, he said.

On any given day, hikers parked across Kalanianaole Highway from the lighthouse trail can be seen darting across two lanes of fast-moving traffic.

On a busy weekend -- especially during whale watching season -- vehicles fill the uneven shoulder on both sides of the road.

The Ka Iwi property was once proposed as the site of a golf course and resort, but public outcry eventually led to its preservation as Oahu's last large open space along a coastline.

In June 2001, the state purchased the land from Kamehameha Schools for $12.8 million. The view from Makapuu Lookout is spectacular in both directions, with Makapuu Beach Park and Waimanalo Bay on one side and the dark-blue, deep waters of the Ka Iwi Channel on the other side.

The state's $5 million project, due to finish in March, should make Kalanianaole Highway near the Makapuu Lookout better able to accommodate visitors and hikers to the Makapuu Lighthouse and lookout areas.

"We like this almost better than Diamond Head," Kerrie Davidson of Colorado Springs said after she hiked to the lighthouse with several friends.

Davidson said she thinks the improvements sound like a good idea, especially from a safety point of view, but agreed with the local sentiment that the place shouldn't be commercialized.

The improvements will begin on the Makapuu end, with work on the hiker's parking lot starting in September, said Scott Ishikawa, state Department of Transportation spokesman. The contract calls for work to be completed by March, barring weather delays, he said.

Off-road portions of the work will be done first, Ishikawa said. When work involves the Kalanianaole Highway, there will be traffic control measures and no parking by the side of the highway.

The Transportation department is supervising the construction and the state Department of Land and Natural Resources will be responsible for park maintenance.

On any given day, hikers parked across Kalanianaole Highway from the lighthouse trail can be seen darting across two lanes of fast-moving traffic.

Original park plans for restrooms and an interpretive center have been dropped for now, Quinn said, partly because of costs, but also because community members said they want to keep the wild character of the area.

"If and when that comes, there will be new community input" before anything is approved, Quinn said. "There is nothing like that scheduled for the foreseeable future."

For now, Quinn is glad to see the parking lot and beautification work begin. "It's been in the works for quite some time. I'm happy to finally see it going."

In keeping with community wishes, the parking lots will not be lit and the hiking lot will have a locked gate that allows access only during daylight hours. The lookout area will not be closed at night.

That suits Waimanalo resident Jilles Tisseraud, who was walks his dog Ena there several times a week.

"The whole things sounds good," he said. "There's so many people coming here on weekends."

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