HAENA — Tony Trull is a frequent visitor to Kauai, and no stranger to hiking the Kalalau Trail.
He returned to the parking lot after hiking the trail yet again on Friday, drenched in sweat, walking sticks in hands.
What does he think about the state’s proposed master plan to restrict the number of people and cars that are allowed into the area to about half of the number that visit today?
“I can see the point of it,” said Trull, of Palos Verdes, California.
He has noticed the parking lot is constantly overfull and agrees something needs to be done to fix the situation. But he doesn’t like the idea of preventing people from being able to enjoy the area.
“Maybe they should have a shuttle bus or something,” he said.
Ironically, the North Shore Shuttle was axed earlier this year in a cost-saving move. The shuttle pilot program, which was supposed to help alleviate parking problems at Haena State Park, cost the county $200,000 to operate for six months and was not financially viable due to low ridership numbers.
But a shuttle may become necessary if the new plan to restrict the number of visitors to 900 per day goes into effect. As part of that plan, the number of parking spaces would be cut in half, from about 200 spaces currently to 100.
Emily Schoettle of Seattle only hiked a small portion of the trail because she is pregnant.
“I can see what a bummer it would be to only have a few days here (on Kauai) and not be able to go,” to see the Kalalau Trail, she said while waiting at Kee Beach for her husband to get the car since they could not find a close space to park. But she said she also understood why restricting the number of visitors to the area could be necessary.
It was a sentiment shared by Lacey Green, who lives in L.A. but has visited Kauai her entire life because she has family on-island.
“I think it’s a great idea (to restrict visitors), especially because I know it is a remote, sacred place,” she said.
But she added, “It would be super depressing if I came and it was closed.”
A visitor from Australia, Kate Buys, spent Friday afternoon enjoying Kee Beach. She hadn’t had a chance to hike the trail because when she and her husband arrived in the morning, they couldn’t find a place to park. Buys said she was disappointed because she and her husband picked Kauai to visit over the other islands specifically because they wanted to do a lot of hiking.
“There isn’t enough parking and there are heaps and heaps of people,” she said.
Buys suggested that instead of restricting access, the state could help solve the problem by building more hiking trails on the North Shore, so that there are more options and everyone isn’t concentrated into one area.
Presley Wann, of the nonprofit community group Hui Maka’ainana O Makana, which has a curator agreement to take care of the taro fields on about 15 acres within Haena State Park, offered input during the creation of the master plan. He supports the move to restrict the number of visitors.
“We’ve got local people — they don’t even go down there because the parking is so bad,” he said. “With the amount of people, I think it really detracts from the beauty of the place.
“It loses the magic.”