Ask The Mayor: Why is the Kula Forest Reserve Closed?

February 1, 2015, 11:58 AM HST · Updated February 8, 4:39 PM
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Polipoli, Kula / Image: Heather Heath

Polipoli, Kula / Image: Heather Heath

The mayor answers questions from the public in this series.

By Mayor Alan Arakawa

Q: Why is the Kula Forest Reserve/Polipoli still closed? There has been ample time for cleanup and repair. I realize Polipoli is not a money-maker for the county, but it is one of the best places on the island and is about the only truly public hunting area on the island.

Not to mention, it showcases the diverse ecosystem that makes Maui so great. The length of time it’s been closed does not reflect the damage done by Tropical Cyclone Ana.

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Every person I’ve talked to at DLNR, etc., says they are waiting for “funding.” What funds are they waiting for? And what needs to be done to get them? Why do citizens have to go without an incredible piece of the island with zero (real) information on why it’s closed? Thanks for your time.

A: Polipoli Spring is a state park, not a county park, and it is managed by the state Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR), Division of Forestry and Wildlife (DOFAW). The large recreational area sustained heavy damage last summer during Tropical Cyclone Iselle, including a large number of massive trees that fell during the same swath of high winds that swept down into ‘Ulupalakua. The fallen trees smashed the pavilion structures in the park, blocked the hiking trail at many points and created a major safety hazard for trail users.

Worse, large and precariously balanced “stacks” of trees are leaning dangerously overhead at a few points on the main access road, and several areas along the roadway have been destabilized by other fallen trees. Although DLNR crews have already cleared away all the debris they could, the remaining fallen trees–some well over 100 feet long–are simply too huge to be cleared safely without heavy equipment. Thus, DOFAW had to request special funding to hire a private contractor with the right equipment for the job.

The funds have since been approved, and once they are released by the governor and a contractor is finalized, it should be only a matter of weeks before the access road and trails can safely be reopened. Park users may be surprised at how different the forest looks after so many trees fell; DLNR staff say the number of trees per acre has decreased so dramatically that it will take decades before the forest reaches the tree density it had in the past.

In case you were wondering, the small restroom in the park did not sustain damage, and the cabin survived because DOFAW personnel had already cleared out the tall trees surrounding the cabin.

Want to Ask the Mayor?

Submit your questions about County of Maui programs, services, operations or policies to Mayor Alan Arakawa via email at [email protected], by phone at 270-7855 or by mail to 200 S. High St., 9th Floor, Wailuku, HI 96793. Questions submitted will be considered for inclusion in the Ask the Mayor column.

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