Recreational area to be expanded in Makawao

Hiking and equestrian trails and bike paths for beginner and advanced riders are among the state Na Ala Hele Trails & Access Program’s plans for a 452.6-acre Kahakapao Recreational Area on state land in the Makawao State Forest Reserve.

The plans are detailed in a 149-page final environmental assessment and finding of no significant environmental impact including in the state Office of Environmental Quality Control’s July 23 bulletin. The report can be seen at ments/Environmental_Notice/Archives/2010s/2013-07-23.pdf. (Click on the Kahakapao Recreational Area project link.)

Ray Glauser, the Maui Bicycle Alliance’s interim communications coordinator, said that the project has the strong support from volunteers from the Maui Mountain Bike Coalition. They have weekly work days every Saturday, he said.

“The Kahakapao Recreational Area has been a great resource for bicycle riders, hikers and equestrians,” Glauser said in an email. “It is one of the few legal mountain biking areas on Maui and is used by residents and visitors. Expanding the area will increase riding opportunities and challenges for riders.”

The bicycle alliance “would like to see similar riding areas developed in other places on Maui,” he said. “A mountain/hiking area close to one’s home would encourage more regular use for exercise and recreation.”

The Na Ala Hele program is part of the Department of Land and Natural Resource’s Division of Forestry and Wildlife.

Following the approval of the project’s final environmental assessment, the next step will be to gain approval from the Board of Land and Natural Resources for the project to be accepted as a Na Ala Hele feature, said Torrie Nohara of the Forestry and Wildlife Division. Then, the Kahakapao area will become part of an inventory and be added to maps of Na Ala Hele trails in the state.

The project’s plans call for establishing a gravity-flow trail, a bicycle pump track, two skills practice areas, a youth practice area with a track and an expansion of multiuse trails. An additional parking area also would be developed with accessible port-a-potties, kiosks and picnic tables near trailhead areas.

Nearby is the county Department of Water Supply’s Piiholo Water Treatment Facility, which opened a public road to the area in 1997.

The section on the project’s background says that the Kahakapao Loop Trail was constructed in 2003.

“This trail was constructed to provide a relatively level pathway for use by beginning- to intermediate-level recreational users, including hikers, bicyclists and equestrian users, while at the same time providing increased security to the county water treatment facility,” the report says.

It points out that the 5.75-mile loop trail was intended for day use only.

Since the trail was opened, several illegal bicycle trails have been built, the report says. Two of the trails are planned to be incorporated into the Kahakapao recreational area.

Trails will need to meet Na Ala Hele standards to be included.

Much of the work will be done in-house or with volunteers, Nohara said.

She had not yet developed a budget for capital improvement projects.

According to the environmental assessment, the recreational area would be developed in four phases.

The first phase calls for designing, building and installing interpretive, informational and educational signs on a gravity-flow bicycle trail on the east side of the area’s existing trail network. The initial phase includes decommissioning unsanctioned trails throughout the forest that do not meet Na Ala Hele standards.

The second and third phases would involve the design, building and installation of signs for the keiki bike track and beginner skills area, and then the pump track. The final phase aims to construct the advanced bike skills area and other skill areas, the report says.

A pump track is a small loop trail, usually taking up less than a quarter of an acre and as small as 75-by-75-feet. The track consists of a series of rollers and berms that allow bike riders of a variety of abilities to improve mountain bike skills such as cornering and taking advantage of terrain, the report says.

Project plans call for building a new parking lot at the top of Kahakapao Road where it ends at the gate to the Makawao State Forest Reserve. The lot will have 30 spaces for vehicles and four spaces for horse trailers.

Project costs are not expected to be more than $100,000.

* Brian Perry can be reached at