Tourist Tuesday — Big Sur can take a lesson from Kauai

“The idea is to create a better experience for the residents and the visitors and then lessen the impact on the place,” said Joel Guy, executive director of The Hanalei Initiative, a nonprofit launching the North Shore Shuttle. “I think it’s a pretty unique model that can hopefully be used in other places.”

June 20, 2019, 2:31 AM PDT By Michelle Broder Van Dyke

HĀʻENA, Hawaii — To reach the northeastern corner of the island of Kauai requires driving or biking on a winding two-lane highway flanked by the mountains and the sea, where rocky outposts are interlaced with strips of sandy beach protected by fringe reefs.

A two-mile stretch of Kūhiō Highway reopened this week after being closed since April 2018 because of landslides triggered by record-breaking rainfall. Now, parts of the mountainside are held back with wire mesh that climbs 40 feet in a highway repair project estimated to cost at least $85 million. Three narrow bridges built in 1912 were wiped out and only one has been completely repaired; the other two are partially complete, with makeshift wooden guardrails and cones blocking cars from crashing into the Pacific Ocean.

Without tourists to disturb the wildlife, native plants and animals rebounded, and even the local community grew stronger. The highway leads to Hāʻena State Park, which once drew more than 2,000 visitors a day. Although tourism is the main economic driver in Hawaii, officials are reconsidering its position as host to nearly 10 million tourists a year across the six islands accessible to visitors. To maintain its unique natural and cultural resources, Hawaii is attempting to shift from encouraging to limiting tourists. With the reopening of Kūhiō Highway, new regulations will aim to cut the park’s number of visitors in half, a goal some locals say is not enough.

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“A popular sentiment among born-and-raised locals is that the flood was a divine declaration from Mother Nature that she had had enough.” 

From another article on what it is like since it reopened with some controls over tourist numbers in place:

Kauai’s Newly Reopened Park Is A Case Study In Controlling Tourism

“There are people who have been born and raised there and all they know is crowds of people,” said Curt Cottrell, the administrator of the Department of Land and Natural Resources’ Division of State Parks. “And then … they looked up and saw their community as it once was 70 years ago. Even the fish started looking up and recognizing that there was room now for them to come back and swim.”

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As Lisa Kleissner says, ”What will our story be?”