Where to Live

How to Mismanage the Paradise of Kauai

Photograph of rotten and broken planks on a hiking trail in Kauai, HI
Broken hiking trail in Kauai Photo credit: Michael Froehls
Written by Michael Froehls

A few weeks ago, my partner and I fulfilled our dream to visit Jurassic Park on Kauai. Ok, we did not find dinosaurs but the most splendid landscapes you can imagine. There are several state parks that you can drive into to walk, hike, and be amazed by the beauty of this place. If you have seen the movies, then you will be even more in awe when facing the Na Pali Coast and its ecosystem in person. I have been to about 60 countries and sometimes there is a certain “haven’t I seen this somewhere?” ennui when looking at so-called must-sees in a new location, but this did not come up on Kauai. This island is unique.

Is CNBC right?

CNBC ranks the state of Hawaii second last on its list to do business in the US. This is not god-given. Of course, you can come up with some powerful explanations and excuses, from distance to the mainland (driving up costs) to lack of industries. Fact is, Hawaii posesses unique natural resources for tourism and movies, the occasional vulcano eruption or flooding notwithstanding. You have a state that is in high demand by visitors 365 days a year because of its beauty. Wouldnd’t you think that the state focuses its resources on preserving that beauty while equally investing in infrastructure to manage its economic growth.

A Kauai picture says a thousand words

Look at the picture above. This is how rotten one of the most famous trails in one of the state parks looks. For long distances, planks over swamps are left unattended, and often new planks that are waiting to be installed lay idly nearby. You can barely make out parking lots at trailheads. There is no capacity management in place. We did not see once a park warden or repair crew. At public restrooms, trash cans were overflowing. Granted, maybe due to a recent flooding at other parts of the island, crews had to focus on repairs elsewhere. But if true, it would not explain the obvious long-term rotting of some trails.

Two possible explanations

Why? There are only two explanations – either the state does not care because tourists come anyhow, or it cares, but is not capable of maintaining and managing its cash cow and unique gift of Kauai’s nature. Whatever the reason, my hikes on Kauai confirm anecdotally the abysmal CNBC ranking of the state for doing business. A state (or city or region) that does not manage its number one resource properly has issues, probably many more than are visible on a hike.

What do you think? Can a hike serve as evidence for mismanagement?

© 2019 Michael Froehls – All Rights Reserved

1 Comment

  • The beauty of this island is astonishing. When you reach the top of the mountains and contemplate its majestic view, you may feel you are in heaven. For doing so, you will need to be prepared to bring out your scout skills -if you have some- plus your courage to successfully do it. On the other hand, the island doesn’t seem to spend the money collected from high taxes – paid by locals and visitors- to improve the trails. The government or even local business associations could provide incentives to local businesses to offer better products (e.g., higher services standards in hotels) which in return would probably bring even more money-spending tourists to the island.

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