Ha’ena State Park to get a ranger

Under an experimental program, state Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR) Division of State Parks officials are going to assign a ranger to Ha’ena State Park.

Because of an increase in public usage of the area that includes Ke’e Beach and the start of the 11-mile-long Kalalau Trail, having a regular presence there is warranted, said Peter Young, chair of the state Board of Land and Natural Resources.

The ranger on Kaua’i will support the activities of DLNR Division of Conservation and Resources Enforcement (DOCARE) officers, and will serve as a “deterrent for inappropriate behavior,” Young said.

Vehicle break-ins occur frequently in the parking lot of Ha’ena State Park at Ke’e Beach, Kaua’i Police Department records show.

The ranger on Kaua’i will provide a “presence,” and will also help explain to hikers the wealth of natural resources that can be found in the area, Young said.

“They (rangers) aren’t interpreters, but they will help visitors better understand what is there,” Young said.

“The ranger will be mostly working within park-like areas, where lots of visitors and residents go to.”

DLNR officials are currently interviewing applicants for the job, including those with ties to Kaua’i. “We are very happy that there were a number of people who applied,” Young said.

At the same time, DLNR officials are also considering hiring a ranger for the Koke’e and Waimea State Park complex, Young said.

Two rangers already are assigned to state DLNR properties on Maui, and another ranger is to be assigned to DLNR properties in Kona on the Big Island, Young said.

Rangers also are planned to be assigned to state properties at Diamond Head and Ka’ena Point on O’ahu, and in other parts of the Big Island, he added.

The positions in the experimental program are funded by leaders of the Hawaii Tourism Authority for two years, Young said. “We want to see how it works, and we will make a decision on whether to make it a permanent program,” he said.

“At this point I am encouraged by what I see, and expect to see this as a permanent program.”

Hikers and campers who use Hanakapi’ai Beach and Hanakapi’ai Valley will receive an early holiday surprise from DLNR officials, too, Young said.

State DLNR workers repaired a self-composting toilet at the beach by Friday afternoon, opening the way for camping permits to be issued once again, Young reported.

The Hanakapi’ai camping area has become a popular stopover for hikers headed to Kalalau Valley on the world-renowned Na Pali Coast.

A routine inspection earlier this month revealed the raised platform on which the toilet sits had become unsafe to use. So, members of a DLNR park crews, aboard a helicopter, were flown to the camping site last week, and made the necessary, temporary repairs in less than a day, he said.

Permanent repairs could start by the end of this month, or in early January, Young said.

Young provided an update on other DLNR activities on Kaua’i at a meeting of the Governor’s Kaua’i Council of Advisors last week at the Lihu’e Civic Center.

Young reported:

  • Members of the BLNR, including Kaua’i’s Ron Agor, have recommended that long-time lessees of cabins in Koke’e State Park who are 50 years old or older be allowed to renegotiate their leases directly with DLNR officials

The leases for more than 110 cabins, including many of the older cabins, expire in December 2006.

The DLNR officials will take some action after lawyers in the state Department of the Attorney General make a determination on the legality of the recommendation, Young said.

“We are holding off any action until we receive the opinion, and hope to have the opinion by the end of the year,” Young said.

If the opinion points out the recommendation isn’t legal, DLNR officials will “have to consult the attorney general to evaluate what legal means are available to us,” Young said. “We want to do the right thing,” he said.

  • DLNR officials are moving ahead with plans to establish an educational center on state-owned property by the Wailua Reservoir in interior East Kaua’i.

The project’s theme promotes the protection of natural resources in Hawai’i, and will benefit generations of Kaua’i children, Young said.

Leaders of the Hawaii Nature Center have been selected by DLNR officials to operate the center. Proponents of the project also will work to increase and protect the fish stock in the reservoir.

Officials with the University of Hawai’i manage land by the reservoir, but through an agreement with university officials, DLNR workers will be able to use the land for the project.

“The (UH) property is being surveyed, and once that is completed, we expect the UH Board of Regents to allow us to use the property, which fronts the reservoir,” Young said. For the project, DLNR leaders will use an access road to a dam and the reservoir, he said.

  • DLNR officials will be presenting soon a “recommended rule package” to the BLNR members on the use of lay gill nets by commercial and recreational fishermen.

The proposed rules are the result of recommendations from a gill net task force comprised of DLNR representatives and residents. Statewide public meetings and surveys on the matter were conducted in 2004.

A public meeting will be held on Kaua’i to get input on the proposals, Young said.

The rules, when promulgated, would apply to Moloka’i, Lana’i, Kaua’i and Ni’ihau, Young said.

“On O’ahu, there are a couple of areas proposed to be banned (from fishermen using gill nets), parts of Kane’ohe Bay, Kailua Bay and Portlock by Koko Head, to the reef runway at the Honolulu International Airport,” Young said.

A ban on lay-net fishing is proposed for Maui, because a majority of the shoreline fishermen there want it, Young said.

Lay-net fishing is non-selective, and is believed to help contribute to the depletion of shoreline fish.

“Many fishermen have stepped forward and have supported the idea of bans, or stricter regulations, on lay-net fishing, commercial and recreational, typically the shortcuts group (pole-and-line fishermen),” Young said.

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