• Koke‘e-Waimea cabins
Enjoying rustic cabin retreats in the forest lands in the highland forest of Koke‘e, including the plateau overlooking Waimea Canyon, is a tradition on Kaua‘i that dates back to the mid-1800s.
Earlier Norwegian settlers on the Westside, including the Knudsen family, found the cool, damp weather a respite from the sunny, arid climate found at Kekaha and other Westside towns.
The area around Halemanu, where Native Hawaiians once cut down koa trees to use as canoe hulls, and where bird catchers plucked red and yellow feathers for use in the feathered capes of the ali‘i, was a favored spot.
It wasn’t until the World War II era that a paved road extended throughout the forest area. Prior to the war, Depression-era Civilian Conservation Corps workers built cabins for public use, bringing more visitors to Koke‘e.
By the 1980s cabins on leased state land were getaways for Kaua‘i families who could afford the lease rent. In the mid-1980s a controversy arose when long-time leaseholders lost their leases when cabin site leases were put out to competitive bid. Some won the leases by sharing the payment on the leases with friends or relatives.
Some 20 years has slipped by on the leases, which are to come due in 2006. The fear among current leaseholders is the loss of their cabins and leases, and that, depending on which plans the state chooses, they might lose their leases to higher bidders.
Leasing state lands gives control of lands to the highest bidders.
This has happened in the Kapahi area, where some forest lands are now in private hands, and area residents are limited in hiking areas that were traditionally natural recreation areas located near neighborhoods of one of the most densely populated areas on Kaua‘i.
The state is presenting to the public some ambitious plans for Koke‘e. They are gathering comments on what to do with the lands. Partly, the plan is hoped to raise revenues sorely needed to protect the native forest of Koke‘e.
A balance is needed between development and restrictions in the Koke‘e-Waimea state forest, and the need to raise funds to protect it and to maintain state facilities.
In addition, Koke‘e serves as a recreation area for the children and families of Kaua‘i. Many who can’t afford an off-island vacation drive up to Koke‘e to enjoy a taste of an environment that is quite different than the coastal environment.
Camping groups from schools and community groups frequently use long-established camps like Camp Sloggett and the Seventh-Day Adventist Camp.
The camping areas need to be protected and preserved for these popular uses.
The last thing the state needs to do is to take away sections of Koke‘e from the uses already established there.
While some of the plans proposed are good ideas, they need to be balanced with commons sense, and a careful look from the point of view of Kauaians.