Avoiding Blowhole During Fix-up
Wednesday - May 14, 2008
One of Oahu’s natural wonders is getting a helping hand from man. The Halona Blowhole is undergoing a much-needed face-lift and remains closed to thousands of would-be visitors.
The city temporarily closed the parking lot and viewing area at the popular tourist spot on April 14. Renovations to make the area safer and more attractive are expected to take at least three months.
“The Blowhole lookout is an attraction for residents and visitors alike,” says Eugene Lee, the city’s Department of Design and Construction director. “This project is meant to improve conditions so it can continue to be enjoyed safely for years to come.”
“We are right on schedule,” says Steve Baginski of Kaikor Construction. “Some of our reinforcement fiberglass material is being made on the Mainland, so we’re waiting on that, but otherwise we are moving along very well.”
The Halona Blowhole has been a must-see for those visiting Oahu’s southeast shore for decades. Many stare in awe as the ocean geyser shoots through lava tubes formed thousands of years ago. When the surf is big, the area erupts with the sound of a thunderous swoosh before water spouts three to four stories high.
But like many gifts from nature, time has taken its toll on the blowhole. Cracked walls, rusted fencing and collapsed viewing areas have made the area unsafe. “Tour companies are obeying the closed signs, driving by slowly and even stopping at Sandy Beach,” says Baginski. “Now if we can just get individuals to realize this is still a work site and the area is closed.”
The incredible force of nature has lured visitors beyond warning signs too many times to count. In 1997, the lower level viewing area collapsed after years of deterioration. The area was never reopened, but the curious always found a way closer to the action.
Then in 2002, a California teenager was killed after he tried to straddle the blowhole.
The tragedy triggered talks of demolishing the site all together in order to deter people from getting in trouble. There also were suggestions to put a protective grate over the natural crevice. Then-Gov. Ben Cayetano decided against it and instead called for more signs.
The price tag for this project is $824,500. Work is scheduled to be completed by September in time for the next whale-watching season. Besides amazing views of Molokai and Lanai, the lookout is a haven for whale watchers. In fact, the city consulted with the Hawaiian Island Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary Program before scheduling the project.
Baginski says they will reconfigure the parking lot, restore the lower platform and reconstruct the upper visitor viewing platform. Plans also call for access for the disabled, which currently was not available.
“We are asking people to be careful because it is still a dangerous area. We are starting to build walls, but people are climbing over barriers. It’s still safer looking at Blowhole from Sandy Beach, and you can still get that photo from there,” says Baginski. “We have it fenced off as much as we can without being constrictive, but despite chains, locks and barriers, people are still getting in.”
Until the face-lift is complete, visitors and residents are asked to avoid the area. “People are risking their own lives,” says Baginski. “We’re asking the public to please be patient.”
The million-dollar view will soon have a near-million-dollar lookout area.
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