Summer’s here but Iao Valley to stay closed a bit longer

Signs posted at an entrance to Iao Valley State Monument in June warned the public to stay away. The state Department of Land and Natural Resources said Wednesday that the park will remain closed until at least August after floodwaters in September caused extensive damage. DLNR had said in June that the park would reopen mid-July. • The Maui News / CHRIS SUGIDONO photo

The Maui News – Iao Valley State Monument, which has been closed since September due to record flooding in the valley, will remain off limits to the public a bit longer, until early August, the state Department of Land and Natural Resources said Wednesday afternoon.

DLNR said in June that the popular tourist destination would reopen in mid-July to accommodate the summer season for residents and visitors, even if the work was not completed.

Initial reports shortly after the raging Wailuku River flooded and damaged the Iao Valley state park, as well as the county’s Kepaniwai Park and several homes in the valley, said repairs would take until February to April.

Deborah Ward, DLNR communications specialist, was unavailable late Wednesday afternoon to explain the reasons for the delay in reopening the park.

Interim slope stabilization, which involved spraying 410 feet of shotcrete to reinforce the exposed dirt cliff along the Wailuku River, has been completed, but the park remains a construction scene with heavy equipment, DLNR said.

The Division of State Parks still needs to complete parking lot restriping, installation of flexible traffic delineators, and installation of security guardrail fencing at various locations in the park, DLNR said. Repairs to the pedestrian bridge will round out the interim improvements.

A second significant phase of streamside slope stabilization will be required later in the year and will require another park closure, DLNR said.

The park will be changed from its preflood layout, state parks administrator Curt Cottrell said in June. Bus access will be substantially reduced and modified due to weight restrictions in a new 30-foot setback along a cliff area. Cars will be allowed to park in the previous bus parking area and only two buses at a time will be allowed in the lot at a time.

The state Legislature allotted $3 million for repairs to the Iao Valley park in the last session. The state Parks Division originally requested $12 million.

“We’ve worked hard to inform the Maui community and visitors that Iao Valley is currently closed,” Cottrell said Wednesday. “We realize this is a major disappointment for the thousands of visitors who have a trip to the state monument on their must-see lists.”

The DLNR has gated the road just above Kepaniwai Park, the county park that reopened in April after repairs from the flood. Still, people have made their way to the construction zone.

“Anytime construction has to stop because of the presence of unauthorized individuals, it could have the impact of delaying the ultimate reopening of the park,” Cottrell said.

While the park is closed, anyone found within the park may be cited for a petty misdemeanor punishable by up to 30 days in jail and a fine of up to $1,000.

“We certainly don’t want anyone to get hurt because they chose to ignore more than a half-dozen closed signs” said Cottrell. “Our staff and contractors are working diligently to repair the damage and restore Iao Valley State Monument to its preflood condition. We ask for everyone’s kokua to help make that happen . . . by not trespassing into closed areas.”