Quarry access changes eyed

KILAUEA — As the draft conservation plan and environmental assessment nears the end of its public comment period, officials at Kilauea Point National Wildlife Refuge are already talking about changes they want to see.

No more dumped cars, wild parties or roaming dogs.

And a measure to try to alleviate the aforementioned will likely be happening soon: There will be new closing hours for non-fishing related activities at the Kahili Quarry.

“This is about public safety and protecting birds,” said Michael Mitchell, acting project leader for the Kauai National Wildlife Refuge System Complex. “The main reason that we proposed this is because we want to reduce user conflict and make the quarry a family-friendly place again.”

It’s an effort to curtail illegal camping, fires, drug activity and loose dogs that are killing wildlife in the area that includes Hanalei, Huleia and Kilauea Point sanctuaries, Mitchell said.

Anglers will continue to have 24-hour access, but non-fishing access will be limited to between 6 a.m. and 5 p.m.

The NWR has a mandate to promote primary public use of fishing in a safe manner, Mitchell said. Fishing is allowed when following state regulations. The NWR would let anglers know that fishing rights do not include overnight camping, fires and some of the other activities that are going on in the quarry.

The restriction in hours is also a way for NWR personnel to prevent semi-permanent camping. The quarry is owned by the refuge, but neighboring Kahili Beach is not.

“We also want to reduce wildlife disturbance at night,” Mitchell said. “There are wild parties, ‘raves’ going on, and families that go down there are not wanting to see big parties going on with illegal drug dealing.”

Kilauea business owner and Kilauea Neighborhood Association board member Tom Pickett supports the changes.

The Kilauea Bakery Pau Hana Pizza owner said many people approve of the plans calling for rock placement at the start of the trail to at least keep activity nearer the access road and further from the crater. The rocks will discourage vehicle entry and that is where most of the other problems begin.

“Just keeping cars out of there seems to be their priority,” Pickett said.

In the past decade alone, Mitchell said, seven cars were abandoned in the quarry. At least one fire grew out of control.

A new replacement fence is designed to discourage illegal camping, but also to prevent roaming dogs from wandering into the area and killing free nesting birds.

There were at least two incidents in which significant numbers of birds were killed by dogs at Mokolea Point, Mitchell said. Seventeen albatross were killed in one event, and an unknown number of wedge-tailed shearwater were killed in another.

The public is welcome to suggest alternative solutions for the review period that ends March 27. To submit comments, email FW1PlanningComments@fws.gov or call 828-1413.

Two alternatives include a new welcome and orientation center on the southwest corner of the refuge. The NWR’s preferred alternative will have the structures built at a location to be determined following a feasibility study. The comments are reviewed by Kauai staff that submit them with recommendations to a regional planner in Portland.

“We’re not making that decision until we finish with the commenting period,” Mitchell added. “Our goal is to listen to the community and come to a planned, balanced approach.”

KNA President Yoshito L‘Hote said it is in the best interests of the community to add their voice to the rock quarry issues regarding site access, road improvement, and moving refuge offices. His personal concern is that community concerns need to be incorporated in decisions to protect the environment and wildlife.

“The illegal activities are already outlined,” L’Hote said, adding that he was not speaking on behalf of the KNA. “There should not be a need for more detail or restrictions and we would like to see them enforce the laws that exist.”

The first alternative plan leaves things as they are with regards to visitor parking, he said. The other three alternatives create some concerns.

“We don’t agree with closing the parking area and access at 5 p.m.,” he said. “We agree to the leash law and to making the road passable.”

The shuttle plan and moving refuge offices offsite to make the lighthouse a working historical site is a popular idea, L’Hote said. But most doubt it would pass during a time of shrinking federal funding.

“It’s a bit ‘pie in the sky’ in the face of financial realities,” he said.

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