- Associated Press - Monday, May 30, 2016

HONOLULU (AP) - A 20-year-old boardwalk at Kauai’s Kokee State Park is getting replaced with recycled plastic as state officials aim to protect the area’s rare species and improve safety for the thousands of people who visit each year.

The narrow redwood boardwalk on Alakai Swamp Trail was reinforced with chicken wire to provide traction when it was built two decades ago. It protected endangered species, but over the years, large sections of it deteriorated.

“There’s some places where portions of the boardwalk dip down in the mud,” said Dan Dennison, spokesman for the Department of Land and Natural Resources.

Nearly 3 miles of the 3.5-mile trail is getting replaced with recycled plastic and fiberglass boards, The Honolulu Star-Advertiser reported (https://bit.ly/1UnTsXz). The new material being flown to the site by helicopter is expected to last longer than wood and make the trail more stable.

The state forestry division’s Na Ala Hele Trail Access program started the $529,000 project May 17. Because of the area’s ever-changing weather, a completion date has not been set, Dennison said.

Kawika Smith, supervisor of the trail access program, told the land department in a video interview that people who leave the boardwalk can damage native plants.

“This boardwalk did a lot of good in saving a lot of those plants along the trail,” Smith said.

The trail is in the Alakai Wilderness Preserve and is home to the endangered ope apea, or Hawaiian bat, and Kauai stag beetle. Endangered forest birds, including the puaiohi, akikiki and akekee, can also be found in the native forest, along with rare plants such as the kuawawaenohu (Alsinidendron lychnoides), oha wai (Cyanea recta) and lehua makanoe (Lysimachia daphnoides).

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Information from: Honolulu Star-Advertiser, https://www.staradvertiser.com

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