State parks enforcement officers cited 20 illegal campers in Kalalau Valley Tuesday morning.
The raid was the third, and largest, bust in the remote Na Pali valley this year.
“Yesterday we cited over 20 people, men, women, no children, it was mostly tourists and non-Hawai‘i residents, and college students,” said East Kaua‘i supervisor Patrick Kenney, acting branch chief of the Division of Conservation Resource Enforcement of the state Department of Land and Natural Resources. Branch chief Tarey Low is on vacation until the end of July. Kenney said Tuesday in a telephone interview that Tuesday’s sweep was a routine operation.
There were no injuries and no one was in need of medical attention, Kenney said, and officers made no arrests.
Using helicopters and boats, seven state enforcement officers went in at about 6 a.m. Tuesday. Campers without valid state camping permits had to immediately gather their belongings and hike out of Na Pali Coast State Park. Four officers are staying in Kalalau until Thursday, when they will be flown out via helicopter, Kenney said.
The last sweep was by boat and held over the July Fourth weekend, when eight campers were cited on Kalalau Beach, Kenney said.
“We don’t force them (campers) to leave but we explain to them if they get cited they have to leave the valley. If they don’t leave they would get cited again,” Kenney said.
It costs $10 per person per day to camp in the Na Pali Coast State Park. Permits are available up to a year in advance from the state parks division of the DLNR. Any person traveling past Hanakapi‘ai Beach must obtain a permit, said Kaua‘i parks superintendent Wayne Souza.
Because the state parks department has no policy for campers to check in as they start a trip, it isn’t known how many users are staying without valid permits or how many forfeit their permits due to changes in plans.
State parks workers and the TV-watching public were recently made aware of semi-permanent living quarters erected in Kalalau by illegal campers. Highlight of a news broadcast on the subject was footage of a library that Kalalau residents built in the valley. The film was shown as part of a two-part series broadcast on KHON-TV.
Kenney said that long-term campers in Kalalau are suspected to have set up places to hide food and items in the upper valley, including a kitchen and the library.
“We looked for it but we didn’t find it, (I) cannot verify that there is one,” Kenney said, “When we come across it we’ll try and break it down.”
Television newswoman Leslie Wilcox said in a call from Honolulu that she kayaked into Kalalau for vacation in mid-June with a 13-member group. The vacation camping trip appeared in the two-part TV newscast. She said she was told about a library Kalalau residents had built and camouflaged from helicopters. The library, now holding up to about 400 books, was seized by parks enforcement officers after being in another location from 1999-2001.
“Usually we check the lowland area and the beach but there were too many people in there running around, running away, they hide until you pass by,” Kenney said of the raid.
Kenney said that he and the other officers found a campsite with a tarp covering and a coffeepot on the fire.
“They’re polite, some of them, like the residents who have nothing better to do than go in there for a couple of weeks,” he said.
“Some days you get a lot of citations, sometimes you get nothing,” Kenney said. “Sometimes you walk around and find nothing but empty campsites. Sometimes officers go on the boat patrol onto the beaches.”
Of the 20 campers cited, Kenney said, “a lot of people who went in there took a chance. Some of the people who got cited yesterday couldn’t (get a permit) because it was booked and they took a chance.”
People can camp legitimately at a rate of $10 per day, staying for a maximum of five nights. Camping is limited to 60 people during the summer months and 30 total in the off-season, with up to five names per permit, Souza said.
Campers may stay three consecutive nights at Miloli‘i, which reportedly remains closed again this summer due to lack of toilet facilities, and five consecutive nights along the Kalalau trail. Campers may not stay more than two consecutive nights at Hanakapi‘ai Valley and Hanakoa Valley.
The 20 people cited for camping without permits will have to face a district court judge, who may order them to pay the cost for the permits.
Staff Writer Kendyce Manguchei can be reached at email@example.com or 245-3681 (ext. 252).