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 firstname.lastname@example.org.