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Kalaupapa leprosy settlement trail closed after landslide

WAILUKU, Maui (AP) — A steep trail to the remote Kalaupapa leprosy settlement on Molokai has been closed indefinitely after a landslide took out a bridge along one of the switchbacks.

Kalaupapa National Historical Park Acting Superintendent Rhonda Loh told The Maui News the trail is closed while officials figure out how to repair it. She said the Park Service is short-staffed because of the federal government shutdown, so officials will examine the damage when the shutdown is over.

The 3-mile trail zigzags down the steep cliffside in a series of 26 switchbacks. It provides the only land access to the isolated peninsula on Molokai’s north coast. Hikers, mule riders and federal and state employees use the trail. A postal service worker discovered the bridge damage on Christmas Day.

Kalaupapa is where Hawaii banished leprosy patients for about a century.

Leprosy has been treatable with drugs since the 1940s and the state stopped exiling patients in 1969. Today, only 12 former patients, all elderly, still live there. They’re cured of the disease and are free to leave, but have chosen to stay because Kalaupapa has become their home. The Park Service maintains a park at Kalaupapa, which is also famous for being where Saint Damien and Saint Marianne cared for leprosy patients when fear of the disease kept most others away.

Damien, who contracted leprosy and died of it at Kalaupapa, was a 19th-century Belgian priest canonized by the Roman Catholic Church in 2009. Marianne was a nun from New York state who was canonized in 2012.

Kalaupapa Rare Adventure has suspended its mule-riding tours, said Kalehua Sproat-Augustiro, whose family has been guiding riders down the trail since the 1970s.

The company will fly clients to Kalaupapa instead if they wish.
Source: Hawaii Tribune Herald

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