“We have way more vehicles than we can accommodate. It’s ridiculous,” said Dan Quinn about Ha`ena State Park on the North Shore of Kaua`i.
On October 14, Quinn, administrator for the state Department of Land and Natural Resources’ Division of State Parks, briefed the Board of Land and Natural Resources on a new draft master plan for the park prepared in collaboration with the community.
The plan proposes a cultural advisory group, a lease with a community-based group to run the park, revenue generation through parking fees, limiting parking spaces to 108, and closing the park once a week, among other things.
Quinn said that Ha`ena is “one of the most constrained sites in the parks system due to the cultural sites.” The park contains one of the state’s richest archaeological complexes, which includes a hula platform, a heiau, a cemetery, house sites, and extensive agricultural sites.
At-large board member Sam Gon added that the fact the park is at the very end of Kuhio Highway creates a “huge challenge.”
On Maui, for example, the main southern coastal road ends at a remote bay, Keoneoio, and cuts through the state’s `Ahihi-Kina`u Natural Area Reserve, which contains archaeological sites, anchialine pools, and coves rich with fish and coral. A few years ago, the reserve’s resources were being trampled and defiled by hundreds of visitors a day and the Land Board eventually authorized an emergency closure. Earlier this year, the board voted to extend the closure of the reserve, initiated in 2008, to give the resources a chance to rest while managers prepared to implement a protection plan.
On O`ahu, a community advisory group has recently proposed locking a gate to the Ka`ena State Park Reserve — also an end-of-the road reserve and a popular off-roading spot — and requiring permits for vehicles seeking access.
The 65.7-acre park at Ha`ena is also being overrun. It is the third-most visited park in the state’s system, with more than 740,000 visitors a year.
Chipper Wichman, a community member who also works for the National Tropical Botanical Garden, a part of which adjoins the park, explained to the board that the entire property is a wahi pana (a legendary place, a place of spiritual power). “It’s tragic to see how the state has managed it,” he said. In addition to the hundreds of cars that line the road to the park and Ke`e Beach during the day, Wichman said, dance parties with generators and disco lights go on at night.
Kaua`i Land Board member Ron Agor seemed to support the idea of limiting parking, but Big Island member Rob Pacheco, who runs a nature tour company, and Maui member Jerry Edlao were skeptical.
“Limiting parking does not solve the issues. You need to find a way to manage people in a responsible way,” Pacheco said, adding that at Maniniowali, a popular beach destination on the Big island, a similar approach was taken and cars continue to overflow onto the road. Edlao added that he, too, was concerned about a plan that would seem to exacerbate a parking problem.
To this, Wichman said the master plan advisory group believed the parking area should be appropriate for the park. Quinn added 108 cars are roughly what will fit in the already disturbed area of the park. “A few more could squeeze in, but 10 or 20 more isn’t going to make a difference,” he said.
A letter from Carl Imparato of the Hanalei-to-Ha`ena Community Association and Barbara Robeson of the Hanalei Roads Committee also expressed their concern about the parking plan, noting that DLNR data for 1999 indicates that the Ke`e area received about 1,700 visitors a day and traffic counts in 2008 found 1,550 vehicles entered the park every day, more than 90 percent of which were out-of state visitors.
“Unless all of its resulting impacts are fully addressed in the plan and the EIS, the proposed parking limitation would simply push problems into the neighborhoods,” they wrote, adding that a shuttle service should be the primary means of visitor access.
“[W]e support the vision of the plan and the process through which the plan was developed, but we also request that the environmental impact statement be required to fully address the issue of access management, rather than treat it as an afterthought,” they wrote.
In the end, the Land Board approved the draft master plan and endorsed the preparation of an environmental impact statement.
Ka`ena Point Advisory Group Proposes Limiting Access
Not long ago, controversy led by fishing interests erupted over a proposed fence for O`ahu’s Ka`ena Point to keep predators like cats and rats away from the seabird colonies that nest there and to protect as well the rare plants found throughout the coastal Natural Area Reserve.
With fence construction expected to be completed by the end of the year, it appears a battle over access to land outside the NAR under the jurisdiction of the Division of State Parks, may be brewing.
At the Land Board’s October 14 meeting, the Ka`ena Point Advisory Group, which includes fishermen, cultural practitioners, and conservationists as well as community representatives, outlined its recommendations to DLNR for the Ka`ena Point State Park.
Except for the fishermen, the group recommended that the DLNR secure the gate at the end of the reserve’s paved road with a combination lock and require access permits for vehicles.
The entire group agreed to ask the DLNR to 1) install signs discouraging damage to Leina A Ka Uhane (a rock within the NAR that is believed by Hawaiians to be a departure point for souls leaping into the afterworld), 2) take appropriate actions to protect the sand dune ecosystems, and 3) protect against damage and erosion caused by “irresponsible vehicular access.”
The group also wanted the DLNR to designate a road in the reserve to clarify where vehicles are allowed, but members did not reach a consensus on where that road should be.
“Ka`ena Point is at a critical point. The damage has been horrible,” said group member William Aila. He explained that Leina A Ka Uhane is being damaged by visitors while the sand dunes, which contain endangered plants and possibly burials, and an area known as Manini Gulch are being degraded by off-road vehicles.
The proposed permitting system, which might require permittees to acknowledge that they understand the administrative rules for the area, is “meant to promote responsible access,” Aila said, adding that since most of the off-roaders at Ka`ena are active-duty or retired military personnel, the group is working with the various military branches to reduce the off-roading pressure there.
Board member Pacheco asked Parks administrator Quinn whether other state parks had gated access. Quinn said that at Kahana, hunters with permits are allowed to take their vehicles past a locked gate and closer to the hunting area.
Summer Nemeth, who had opposed the predator-proof fence around the NAR, did not testify on any particular part of the plan, but told the board that she was concerned about how the advisory group had been created and claimed that fishing group representatives had been bullied at times. She said the fishing community had created its own management plan and asked the Land Board to consider it at its next meeting.
Because the presentation was only a briefing, the board did not take action on the recommendations. Quinn said that his division would likely return to the board for approval of a plan by the stewardship group.
Management Slows at Pu`u Wa`awa`a
Progress on fulfulling objectives the state’s management plan for Pu`u Wa`awa`a and Pu`u Anahulu on the Big Island has slowed to a crawl over the past several months.
Pu`u Wa`awa`a management plan coordinator Mike Donoho resigned last December and the DLNR’s Division of Forestry and Wildlife has been unable to replace him because his position has been frozen, according to a briefing to the Land Board on October 14 by DOFAW’s Hans Sin.
The Land Board had approved in concept a 10-year management plan for Pu`u Wa`awa`a and the makai lands of Pu`u Anahulu prepared by DOFAW and the Division of State Parks. Donoho had been the plan’s coordinator since 2004. To help fill the void left by his departure, DOFAW has been working with Elliot Parsons from the Three-Mountain Alliance (a watershed partnership that includes Pu`u Wa`awa`a) to take over some of the work.
Sin said Elliot was “fresh off the boat,” and would be working with Melissa Dean of the Hawai`i Experimental Tropical Forest on coordinating research and management activities at Pu`u Wa`awa`a. According to the Three Mountain Alliance’s job announcement, Parsons will also be responsible for outreach and education and facilitating meetings of the Pu`u Wa`awa`a Advisory Council, which, according to Sin, has not met all year.
Sin said that over the past year, the island has been suffering from “one mean drought,” and that fires are a constant concern. In two separate fires in July, about 200 acres of the Pu`u Wa`awa`a forest reserve burned and about 10 acres burned in Pu`u Anahulu. According to a DOFAW report, these were the first fires started within the ahupua`a in four years.
Despite the setbacks, some progress had been made: 183 goats were killed during public hunts in September and October, reducing the herd there by about a third, and the Big Island Natural Area Reserves staff and the 2010 Hawai`i Youth Conservation Corps planted about 500 native plants on the Pu`u Wa`awa`a cinder cone. Also, about 1,500 feral pigs have been removed to date from the forest bird sanctuary.
Haseko Shrinks `Ewa Marina, Again
Haseko, Inc., is now ready and willing to fight to shrink its marina, from 70 to 54 acres, whether in a contested case hearing or in court, according to Yvonne Izu, an attorney representing the company.
On September 9, Izu requested that the Land Board approve an amendment to Haseko’s Conservation District Use Permit for its `Ewa Marina to allow the reduction. Haseko had originally sought to shrink the marina in 2001, but rescinded that proposal after Michael Kumukauoka Lee, a cultural practitioner and longtime opponent, had requested a contested case hearing on the matter. Lee had argued that shrinking the marina might result in poor water circulation and anoxic conditions and suggested that environmental studies be done to determine the possible effects on marine life in the area.
Izu said that Lee’s request came during the economic downturn and Haseko decided it didn’t want to spend its resources fighting him. Now that economic conditions have improved, her client is prepared to proceed, she said.
After the board unanimously approved the request, `Ewa Beach community association president Glenn Omalza and Lee both requested a contested case hearing. Land Board chair Laura Thielen then told to Izu that should Haseko rescind its request again, it not come back to the Land Board because of the costs to her staff.