Photos: courtesy of Kicka Witte; Kapaia Foundation

“Maintenance neglect and resistance from county leaders created the dilemma we have struggled with for the past five years.” – Laraine Moriguchi

UPDATE: 2012 – CONTINUED THREAT

Article Written By: Kathryn Drury Wagner

In last year’s “Most Endangered Places,” we covered the Kapaia Swinging Bridge, a wooden suspension bridge constructed in 1948. A vestige of the plantation culture in the Islands, in 2006, It was deemed unsafe and closed by the county. Things had been looking up: the county was planning to restore the bridge’s two towers, and a community group, Save Kapaia Swinging Bridge, was raising the funds for the rest of the renovation. Looming, however, was a problem: a large java plum tree, which had fallen 15 feet downstream of the bridge.

According to Laraine Moriguchi, of Save Kapaia Swinging Bridge, on March 9, Kaua’i was deluged with heavy rains, flooding Hanama’ulu Stream. The fallen tree acted as a dam, backing up piles of logs and brush from upstream. When the debris and force of water became too strong, the tree gave way, releasing everything that was back up, flooding the valley and crashing through the Kapaia Suspension Bridge.

Since then, she says, “many people seem to think that it’s beyond repair. Nothing is further from the truth. Visually, the bridge looks very bad and so sad because all the wooden elements in the center section are gone. However, structurally, nothing has changed. The concrete foundation and steel cables are as sound as ever. All the wood that was damaged needed to be replaced anyways. Therefore, the prognosis remains the same as always: the Kapaia Swinging Bridge is restorable. Our efforts continue.

LISTED AS ENDANGERED IN 2011

Article Written By: Victoria Wiseman

What Is It?
Built in 1948, the Kapaia Swinging Bridge is a 125-foot-long suspension bridge with two tall, wooden towers anchored by steel cables. The last in a series of bridges used by plantation workers from the Kapaia Camps, footbridges over Kapaia stream have been used since the 1900s. Connecting the communities of Kapaia, Hanama’ulu and Līhu‘e, the Kapaia Swinging Bridge, and its more modest footbridge predecessors, is a historical crossroad of the plantation culture.

What Threatens It?
The Bridge was last repaired in 1965 and, today, the wooden structure is badly rotted. In 2006, the county closed the bridge, citing safety concerns. Since then, the community has organized a restoration effort; in 2008, it was put on the state register of historic places, and, in 2010, the County of Kauai agreed to a preliminary engineering report for restoration

The news wasn’t good. “The vast majority of the wooden structure was in very poor condition and there was little that could be salvaged. The recommendation was therefore made to rebuild the entire wooden portion of the bridge,” says Kauai County engineer Larry Dill.

The proposed restoration would alter the look of the bridge, because it includes parking areas on each side of the bridge, a switchback ramp for wheelchair access and other modernization.

What can be done?
In August, Dill announced the county would restore the bridges’ two towers, buying the community about five years to raise the funds necessary to restore the entire bridge and work out the details of its physical restoration. “Maintenance neglect and resistance from the county leaders created the dilemma we have struggled with for the past forgive years,” says Laraine Moriguchi, director of the group Saving Kapaia Swinging Bridge. “The administration’s willingness to at least stabilize the bridge by replacing the two towers was a welcome surprise,” she said. Though the County Council appropriated $230,000 for the restoration, only $80,000 will be used to replace the towers.

“It would be wonderful if they would use the remainder to finish the bridge restoration,” Moriguchi said. The group plans to keep the pressure on to move restoration plans forward.