So what should be done with Haena State Park?
If you want to have your say, you still have your chance.
The Department of Land and Natural Resources, Division of State Parks announced this week it will continue to accept public comments on the master plan and draft environmental impact statement for Haena State Park through Oct. 8. The reason it did so was because many people expressed concerns they didn’t have enough time to review the plan, which calls for controlled entry, a 900-person daily visitor cap and beach access by way of an elevated boardwalk. The plan also proposes fees for park entry and/or parking, with Hawaii residents being exempt.
It would be a significant change, but something needs to be done. Anyone visiting Haena knows just how crowded it is. Traffic is often such a nightmare, many residents won’t even bother to drive to Ke‘e Beach. Trying to find parking is usually frustrating and maddening. A shuttle service failed to alleviate traffic on the North Shore, so it’s clear people will not surrender their cars.
And these crowds are not going away. Kauai, on average, sees more than a million visitors a year. Naturally, they want to see and experience the places that make this island so special. Haena State Park is one of those places, for good reason. Its pristine shoreline, sheltered lagoon and scenic vistas make it one of the island’s most popular visitor destinations.
With roughly 2,000 daily visitors, “the end of the road” is also one of the state’s busiest parks. Within its 66 acres, the park contains valuable cultural and ecological resources, as well as the Kalalau trailhead, gateway to the Na Pali Coast State Wilderness Park.
But, as many have expressed, things are out of control. Change is needed. Thus, we have DLNR’s proposed 800-page master plan, with the stated objective “to reduce resources impacts, with an overarching goal to simply improve public safety and restore a quality experience to the public.”
That sounds good.
But there will be a price to pay.
A controlled entry, a visitor cap, a boardwalk are dramatic differences from what has been Haena State Park. It has cultural and historical significance, so making physical changes can’t be taken lightly.
And let’s not make the mistake of trying to blame this all on tourists and ruining things for residents. Yes, we have around 100,000 people each month coming here. And yes, they increase the number of vehicles on the roads and the number of people on beaches and trails. But tourism is key to Kauai’s economy. If guests stopped coming here, sure, the crowds and cars would go away, but so would jobs, and businesses would suffer as a result.
The key is to find a way that will allow people — visitors and residents — to visit Haena State Park and see Kauai’s beauty, but at the same time, to keep the number from growing so large it hurts the experience for everyone. In the eyes of many, it’s already reached that point.
We encourage Kauai residents to review this plan, consider what it means, and also look into whether there is another solution. Or perhaps, just leave things are they are and hope the situation will work itself out. In the end, what’s decided will affect life on Kauai.
The draft EIS is available for download on the Division of State Parks website (http://dlnr.hawaii.gov/dsp/announcements/).
Comments should be sent by Oct. 8, to: Lauren Tanaka, Division of State Parks, 1151 Punchbowl St., Room 310, Honolulu, HI 96813 or by email to: Lauren.A.Tanaka@hawaii.gov or to Kimi Yuen, PBR Hawaii, 1001 Bishop St., Suite 650, Honolulu, HI 96813 with email: firstname.lastname@example.org.