Leave Kalalau squatters to authorities

Some ideas, like cleaning up beaches, are good.

Some ideas, like vigilantes clearing illegal campers from the Kalalau Valley, are bad.

We can’t imagine that someone would be foolish enough to put together a group with the intention to trek to Kalalau and start looking for trespassers, squatters or whatever you want to call people living there. It would be an even bigger mistake — and a life-changing one — to actually try to remove these people. While some may think going around and evicting illegal campers in the Kalalau sounds commendable, courageous and sensible, it’s the exact opposite.

We have a few words of warning to anyone considering such foolhardy actions: Don’t do it. In case someone hasn’t quite thought this through, if regular people — not police or law officials with authority — try to forcibly remove the so-called squatters, they could find themselves not only in danger of being hurt but in danger of spending time behind bars.

So, how did this outcry about clearing out the Kalalau recently get started and begin making the rounds on social media? It’s something that’s been tossed about before, the need to protect and preserve the beauty and sacred grounds in the valley of our North Shore. But it resurfaced following a tragic and deadly crash on April 27 that resulted in the death of 19-year-old Kapaa resident Kayla Huddy-Lemn.

The driver was Cody Safadago, 46, originally from Washington state, who was reportedly living in the Kalalau Valley before the wreck. According to court testimony, Safadago was driving a stolen car at least 88 mph in a 35 mph zone and had a blood-alcohol content of .248 on the night of the crash. That Safadago was in the Kalalau Valley causing trouble for a short time, and then was connected to the fatal accident of a beautiful, young local women, stirred up anger and resentment toward these folks who managed to make their way to Kauai and settle in the valley.

While we certainly agree we don’t need people like Safadago here, we don’t want to see innocent people caught up in a wave of violence or backlash against Kalalau’s trespassers who have taken up residence there. The last thing we want to see are locals heading out there with intent to physically remove Kalalau’s squatters. That will only end badly.

At this point, it would be wise for the state Department of Land and Natural Resources to have more enforcement in the valley. It should not completely discount the call for action on social media.

We do applaud DLNR’s Division of Conservation and Resources Enforcement for its recent raid of the valley and arrest of 17 people. Three were said to be living in the valley “for long periods of time” and all were arrested because they didn’t have permits for camping.

The Kalalau Valley is sacred and beautiful. It must be treated with respect. If people are living there illegally, they should be removed. Strange behavior is one thing. Illegal, disrespectful behavior to the Hawaiian culture and to the natural resources of Kalalau and the Napali Coast is another. It’s unacceptable.

But let’s leave it to the authorities to follow legal steps to do their job and protect Kalalau Valley and the Napali Coast by removing those who don’t belong there. A vigilante mindset must give way to cooler heads.


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