By Andrea Romano
June 20, 2019
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After an extensive recovery period, the Kuhio Highway on the island of Kauai in Hawaii reopened to the public on Monday, but with some precautions in place.

The highway was closed in April 2018 after some record-breaking floods created major landslides which ended up damaging and blocking the road, NBC News reported. The Kuhio Highway is the main roadway to access Kee and Tunnels beaches as well as Napali Coast State Wilderness Park and Haena State Park, which used to welcome 3,000 visitors a day, according to Hawaii Magazine.

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Even though the reopening of the highway and Haena State Park could be a major boon for tourism in the area again, officials and locals are hesitant to return to life as it was before the floods. According to Hawaii Magazine, the Haena State Park Master Plan dictates that the park will now be limiting the number of visitors to only 900 per day, but it’s for a good reason.

According to NBC News, since the area has been largely inaccessible to the millions of tourists that flocked there over the course of the year, researchers have noticed a major change in the environment and wildlife in the area. It’s actually beginning to thrive.

“We were definitely struck by the abundance of the juvenile blue trevally when we went [to the coast],” researcher Kosta Stamoulis told NBC News. “In most places in Hawaii, you might see one or two, and usually by themselves, but in Haena during the last round of surveys this last week, we would just see schools of them.”

According to NBC News, there have also been increasing numbers of sea turtles and other species of fish.

The reason for this sudden boom in the wildlife population seems to mostly be a lack of human intervention. According to NBC News, the area was restricted to only a few hundred locals plus some pets and farm animals after the floods.

The new Haena State Park Master Plan also includes mandatory reservations at least two weeks in advance, community shuttles, and fines for parking in unauthorized areas. The new parking lot now only accommodates 100 vehicles, Hawaii Magazine reported.

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Even though restrictions should cut back on tourism’s impact on the environment, some locals are still not thrilled about the reopening, according to the Honolulu Star Advertiser. On Monday, protesters blocked at least 50 tourists from driving on Kuhio Highway in the early morning hours before police eventually had to ask them to reopen the road. No one was arrested in the incident.

According to NBC News, recovery for the Kuhio Highway cost $85 million, and not only included repair of the road but also reinforcing of the mountainside with 40-foot-high wire mesh barriers and bridge restoration. There is still some work to be done, but overall, the area is back to being a paradise destination (that’s also eco-friendly).

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