Locked down for now

  • Jessica Else / The Garden Island

    Two hikers follow a flow of people cutting around the newly constructed fence to the trailhead to Queen’s Bath in Princeville Wednesday.

  • Jessica Else / The Garden Island

    A fence now stands in front of the trailhead at Queen’s Bath in Princeville, with a locked gate warning of hazardous conditions and no trespassing. The gate will be unlocked when conditions are no longer hazardous, according to Princeville Community Association.

  • Jessica Else / The Garden Island

    Scores of cars line the parking lot and the road in Princeville fronting the trailhead to Queen’s Bath, where a new fence and gate have been constructed to keep people out during hazardous conditions.

  • Jessica Else / The Garden Island

    After about a month of existence, passers by are already leaving garbage and litter at the gate that marks the trailhead to Queen’s Bath in Princeville.

  • Jessica Else / The Garden Island

    A sign warns no trespassing and hazardous conditions on a newly constructed fence and gate in front of the trailhead to Queen’s Bath in Princeville.

  • Jessica Else / The Garden Island

    The trail leading down to Queen’s Bath in Princeville is seen through a newly constructed, chainlink fence.

PRINCEVILLE — Warnings about dangerous terrain and drowning risks are now posted at the trailhead to Queen’s Bath, attached to a new fence that spans the hillside in front of the trail.

The gate at the trailhead is currently locked due to hazardous conditions — a brown water advisory, according to the Princeville Community Association. It will be open when hazardous conditions subside and closed for events like high surf.

Rory Enright, PCA general manager, said the fence and gate have been in place about a month.

“We’re the arms of the county with this,” Enright said. “They tell us when to close and open the gate and we’re on the phone with them every day.”

The pattern of scares and deadly tragedies at Queen’s Bath is well documented, and conversations between the County of Kauai and PCA have been ongoing for years.

“We’ve finally gotten this fence and gate up, but you’ll see that there’s still a way around,” Enright said. “We’re working on getting some plants in there, like cat’s claw, to block off the place where people can still get through.”

And though it’s trespassing, that’s exactly what people are doing.

“Look, we’re watching them right now, walking around the end of that fence and ignoring the signs like it’s nothing,” said Melissa Bonte, who lives across the street from the trailhead.

As she talked about cars blocking access to her driveway and parking lot traffic backing up 15-cars deep down the street, at least 20 people rounded the end of the fence in a constant line of trespassers.

Some were starting the journey and others were ending the hike, but all of them were trespassing behind the fence and in danger of those repercussions, plus being cited, prosecuted and charged for rescue or recovery expenses.

Bonte said she doesn’t think that strategic planting of vegetation is the answer. If they really want to shut down access during hazardous conditions, officials need to continue the fence downhill and then block off the parking lot, she said.

“It’s a herd mentality, and I’ve seen it. Early mornings when there’s no one in the parking lot, people will stop and read the signs and sometimes drive away,” she said. “Not when there are cars in the parking lot. If you put a chain out and close the parking lot, that would help.”

The pool that is Queen’s Bath has tragedy in its history, with more than a few vacations turning dangerous or deadly along the rocks or in the pool itself — and locals get injured there, too.

In June, a 51-year-old Kapaa man was airlifted from Queen’s Bath after a wave swept him out to sea while he was picking opihi. In February, a man died after he was swept out to sea from the ledge as he was taking a picture, leaving behind his wife and young son.

The trail itself is peppered with tree roots and steep slopes. It’s a moderately difficult, 15-to-20-minute hike when conditions are prime, but known as an ankle breaker of a trek if the trail is muddy.

Extending the fence is being considered by PCA.

Enright estimates there are hundreds of visitors to Queen’s Bath each day, and Bonte said she’s calculated about 300 to 500 people daily visiting the trail. Its parking lot only has 14 stalls.

People can park at the Makai Golf Course and walk, but many choose to instead linger in their cars around the lot until a stall is open, and then pounce, Bonte said.

Enright says PCA is talking about ways to manage the parking lot with potentials of creating a reservation system and charging for parking in the lot.

“We have KPD (Kauai Police Department) go out there about once a week. We could have them out there every day ticketing and they wouldn’t get all of them, but they come out,” Enright said. “Right now, we’re trying to get our arms around the situation.”

•••

Jessica Else, environment reporter, can be reached at 245-0452 or jelse@thegardenisland.com.

8 Comments
  1. some guy September 7, 2018 2:06 am Reply

    everything is illegal in Kauai now it seems!


  2. kauaiboy September 7, 2018 7:23 am Reply

    How about this as a solution? Have the County declare eminent domain and raze the Bonte home and create a more reasonable size parking lot for those who want to legally visit one of Kauai’s natural wonders!

    Then create a law that any of those who find themselves in trouble at the Bath or any of a number of other designated danger spots on Kauai and do not heed warning bear the cost of rescue, recovery or funerals themselves.

    Does it really sound as if Ms. Bonte and Mr. Enright care more about life and limb or about their property values?


    1. Joe Public September 7, 2018 10:15 am Reply

      Good ideas. Would solve a few problems.


  3. kauaidoug September 7, 2018 9:51 am Reply

    I am writing because I see the same thing at Wailua Falls. I was out there a couple times last week and saw people cutting around the fence DIRECTLY below the dangerous sign do not enter. Anyone who is familiar with that fence knows one misstep and you could be going down a one way fall. It is extremely dangerous when wet and if you aren’t familiar with the terrain. I did say something to the people I saw because I am concerned for their safety. What a horrible way to end a vacation to our beautiful island. The county/state needs to get out there and close it off. The fence has been rolled back by idiots to allow easier entry. Better to repair a fence than pay for rescue or worse!!
    As far as the people in the article who live close by, I would guess they are effected the most in that if an injury happens people seeking help come and bang on their door?? Someone should contact the people who publish the location to Queen’s Bath OR add them to any libel action that the state/county faces.


  4. Melissa Bonte September 7, 2018 11:59 am Reply

    @Kauaiboy – I do not believe in restricting public access and gating this place off is NOT the solution. Too many places in Hawaii have suffered this fate. (Lower Puna, Kipu Falls, Stairway … ) BUT – since the county went ahead and did it anyways, if they’re truly worried about the safety of visitors, then allowing them to park at the trailhead when it’s “closed” seems counter-intuitive. That’s the only point I was trying to make – ha! (And I don’t feel like the author conveyed my sentiments properly – but, I’m the idiot for even opening my mouth to begin with! Please don’t put me on Hungry Hawaiian – I beg you LOL!) Also, won’t the fisherman just come and cut it anyways?! As they should! Restricting public access is never the solution …


  5. manongindashadow September 7, 2018 12:19 pm Reply

    The trail is the right way to the site (Queen’s Bath) and the site is a public area. There is no trespassing!
    Change the sign to, ” enter at your own risk (along with the warning of brown water, no lifeguards, etc.)and there will be a fine of $1000.00 & a year in jail if emergency recue personnel need to respond to save you during hazardous times.” The State/County should follow through with the charges. This way people (tourist and locals) will think twice before entering during the hazardous times.


    1. Da Shadow September 7, 2018 8:33 pm Reply

      manongindashadow you are right on.
      instead of all this burden on governments to restrict peoples’ freedom to choose, simply let them ACCEPT RESPONSIBILITY for their actions and choices.

      I, for one, do not like the State telling me what choices i can and cannot make.


  6. Asia mandalay September 7, 2018 7:57 pm Reply

    Really? Plant cats claw, a super invasive plant that’s really hard to eradicate? I don’t think so!


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