Pier Today Better Tomorrow

In a sad state of disrepair, the historic Hanalei Pier has become dangerous to humans. So Bob Capwell and other Rotarians are fundraising to make renovations, hopefully starting this summer. Coco ZIckos photo

Hanalei Pier has seen better days. Rotten wood, rusted steel and missing support structures are among the many reasons Rotary Club of Hanalei Bay president Bob Capwell is adamant about restoring the historic site.

Leaving it in its current condition is unacceptable.

“The pier itself is arguably the most photographed, most important, most well-known structure in the world, and it really is a state treasure,” says Capwell, co-chairman of the fundraising committee for the Rotary’s Save the Pier campaign.

“It’s iconic,” he adds. “It’s iconic to the North Shore. It’s iconic to the island of Kaua’i.”

The pier is in a sad state, he notes as he points at support beams that look as though they might collapse without a moment’s notice.

The aesthetics really are displeasing. It is hard not to notice the gaping holes in the pier’s roof and the fragments of wood falling from it.

“You cannot walk out there without seeing the obvious need for repair,” says Capwell.

The structure is a safety hazard as well. People are filtering through the roof’s pukas so that they can climb to the top of it and jump into the water.

Capwell in front of Hanalei Pier, which shows an unbalanced roof structure. Coco Zickos photos

“For some of the young people on the island, it’s a rite of passage,” says Capwell.

But it’s dangerous.

“The waters are shallow and there have been injuries based on people jumping off the roof,” he says. “You definitely don’t want to be diving there.”

Capwell is hoping to generate $150,000 to bring the pier back to presentable life. Last month, approximately 20 percent of the goal already had been reached.

“We’re serious about this. This is going to happen,” he says.

The effort has been well-received by the entire community thus far. Enterprises already on board include Terra Pacific Construction Company, which has agreed to serve as the lead contractor, and Agor Design Group completed the architectural design.

Rotten wood is one of the many hazards Hanalei Pier currently poses

The cash-strapped state, which owns the pier, also has been receptive to the project.

The Rotary Club approached Department of Land and Natural Resources’ Kaua’i Boating district manager Joseph Borden, who immediately jumped on board because of the state’s inability to repair the pier on its own.

“We appreciate the leadership and commitment of the Rotary Club of Hanalei …,” says DLNR information specialist Deborah Ward. “We encourage the community to support the fundraising initiative of the Rotary Club to make a difference for Hanalei.”

According to Ward, DOBAR Kaua’i is currently seeking bids from lumber vendors and will purchase the domestic lumber and fasteners. The Rotary Club, in turn, will supply roofing materials, specialty lumber, fasteners and a hired contractor, and will coordinate volunteers.

Mayor Bernard Carvalho Jr. also has expressed his support.

One of the support structures the organization installed as a temporary fix

Giant holes in the Hanalei Pier's roof

“This project is a great example of community involvement and ownership of our treasured resources,” the mayor says. “Everyone can get involved in our effort to enhance, preserve and manage the beaches of Hanalei.”

Folks have really wanted to accomplish this task for quite some time. The Hanalei Pier has been battered by more than 20 years of wind, rain and sea spray since its last revitalization. It was originally built of wood before 1892. In 1921, the state laid concrete for the structure and added a deck. The shed’s roof was erected in 1940 and was reroofed in 1973.

However, the last entire pier renovation was completed in the early 1990s.

Visitors and residents use Hanalei Pier on a regular basis even though it is currently in hazardous condition

Something that is listed on the National Register of Historic Society should not be in this condition, says Capwell. As part of his ongoing efforts, he is distributing cans for cash donations at several North Shore businesses.

“Every little bit counts,” he says. He’s even been instrumental in creating Save the Pier T-shirts and brochures.

It’s obviously a project Capwell firmly believes in.

“We love our community, and we’ve had a history of doing community projects, and it’s the right thing to do. This is a big one and we feel it’s the right thing to do for the community,” he says. “We feel obligated to step up and do it.”

Capwell also has been part of several other Rotary Club of Hanalei Bay projects since he became a member in 2007. About five years ago he helped build the Ocean Safety Storage Building on Weke Road in Hanalei, where the Kaua’i Lifeguard Association has an office and stores equipment.

“We’re accustomed to taking on big jobs, so repairing the pier shed was natural for us,” he says.

Capwell also sits on the board of the Growing Our Own Teachers Foundation, which has raised more than $160,000 and has placed some 40 teachers in Kaua’i public schools.

“If you have to go and hire teachers from the Mainland, they’ve had a history of not staying here very long,” he says in explanation of the program’s importance.

Either they can’t afford to live on the island or they become homesick.

When asked if the New York native ever got homesick, he replies, “No. Never.”

Hanalei Pier roof that is clearly in need of repair

Capwell with wife Mary. Photo courtesy of Bob Capwell

The holes in the Hanalei Pier roof allow people to climb on top of it and jump, putting themselves at risk of serious injury. Photo courtesy of Bob Capwell

“That’s why they build airplanes,” he says.

Though he spends much of his time making contributions to the community, he didn’t always have time to lead a volunteer organization. Capwell is a retired engineering manager in microelectronics who acquired his Ph.D. in chemistry from the University of Pittsburgh because he was “good in math and science.” He moved to Kaua’i in 2006 with his wife Mary, who works part time for the University of Hawai’i.

Capwell has two grown children from a previous relationship – Jeff, an attorney, and Caroline, a stay-at-home mother. He has three grandchildren. Spending time with family is of utmost importance to Capwell – as is getting Hanalei Pier back to its former glory. Not only is he reaching out to communities across the island, including the Westside with a PowerPoint presentation about the significance of Hanalei Pier, Capwell plans to hold a family-oriented concert fundraiser in the near future. Once funds are raised, it should only take approximately three months to restore the structure. If all goes according to plan, work should begin in the summer, according to Ward.

After the job is completed, the Rotary Club of Hanalei Bay plans to adopt the pier and continue to maintain it.

“Mahalo to the Rotarians and all involved in this effort,” says Mayor Carvalho.

Visit hanaleirotary.org for more information or to make a donation.