The state is trying to send a strong message to illegal campers who, officials say, have been destroying Hawaii’s natural beauty.
The Department of Land and Natural Resources says so far this year, 104 people have been cited for unpermitted presence in the Kalalau section of Napali Coast State Wilderness Park on Kauai. One man was arrested for four different violations.
Under state law, only people with camping permits from the DLNR Division of State Parks can travel beyond Hanakapiai Stream, at the two-mile mark of the 11-mile-long trail.
“State Parks and (the Division of Conservation and Resources Enforcement) have been working very hard to make this right. Despite these efforts, it’s discouraging to see continued illegal actions and behavior. It shows disrespect for the ‘aina and for the cultural attributes that have made the Na Pali Coast and Kalalau Valley so special,” said DLNR Chair Suzanne Case. “So we are on record that we are very serious about shutting down illegal activity, including unpermitted commercial activity and unpermitted campsites.”
In addition to repeated sweeps, crews also conducted massive cleanups.
In the first quarter of 2016, state parks maintenance crews gathered, bagged, and airlifted more than four tons of rubbish out of the park. They also shoveled 2,400 pounds of human waste from composting toilets into six large barrels that were also flown out of Kalalau.
“The last time we hauled out rubbish in a two-week period of cleanup, we hauled out 4,000 pounds of rubbish that was not brought in by hikers, but it was part of the illegal commercial boat traffic bringing in people with alcohol, mattresses, surf boards, tables, the kind of stuff that you don’t see in a wilderness backpacking experience,” said Curt Cottrell, DLNR Division of State Parks administrator.
DLNR says the remoteness of the area makes it hard for officers to enforce the law 24/7.
“Because of the remote and inaccessible nature of the Na Pali Coast, our officers are at a marked disadvantage to effectively enforce the regulations there,” said Thomas Friel, DOCARE enforcement chief. “The logistics and the high cost involved in these operations make it impractical at this time to hold a sustained enforcement presence there.”
Officials say social media has also played a big role in publicizing illegal activity, so “we’re using social media to get the word out,” Case said. “Social media is now a tool for us to interface with the guys that are posting stuff, saying here’s our side of the story in terms of impact and management.”