Napali Coast deserves, demands support

The state Department of Land and Natural Resources appreciates editorials and public comments on squatters in Kalalau that advocate the need to eliminate this pernicious misuse of a physically stunning and historic valley in Kauai’s 6,175-acre Napali Coast State Wilderness Park. Kalalau trail is a world renowned wilderness hiking and camping destination, annually ranked in top 10 best trails lists, and a cherished destination for generations of our local families.

Social media comments advocating the need to improve management and remove people who establish illegal campsites, desecrate cultural and archaeological sites and pollute the environment with rubbish and human waste are right on target!

This behavior has been fluctuating and festering for several decades, creating an alternative culture in Kalalau. This has fostered a reputation of no rules and that one can freely commune with nature absent clothes, and use drugs and alcohol with no consideration to others, while tampering with irreplaceable historic sites. This entitled behavior is selfish and misrepresents the authenticity of “malama ‘aina” when these people engage in faux cultural practices and destructive recreation.

Total Kauai State Parks staffing is 24 positions for nearly 14,000 acres of Kauai State Park land. No staff is dedicated specifically to Kalalau due to workloads. Management requires costly helicopter operations to and from Kalalau to remove waste from over-used composting toilets and rubbish left by unethical campers.

Kalalau camping capacity is set at 60 people; yet during summer months 200 campers per day have been reported. These illegal campers either hike in or are transported by illegal commercial boat or jet skis loaded with supplies and alcohol, much too heavy to hike in.

Rubbish and permanent camp set-ups are left behind, frequently within archaeological sites, including heiau. This ruins the wilderness experience for campers with permits who practice “leave no trace” ethics. In this mix of permitted campers, illegal campers and partyers, and long-term indigents, is also the occasional unstable individual with criminal intent who simply wants to be off the grid.

Enforcement operations over the past several years have resulted in nearly 200 arrests and citations. Continued enforcement and vastly improved management is an absolute necessity.

We believe community policing would be ineffective and dangerous in this challenging environment and create additional problems and safety issues. The constant presence of additional park staff with equipment and direct communication with conservation officers would circulate quickly via social media and eliminate the illegal use.

This year DLNR requested six staff positions for Napali, re-prioritized to only two, but did not make the cut. We are committed to eliminating this abuse of our public land and cultural heritage — and on-site staff is essential to achieve this goal.

Public advocacy will alert your elected representatives that the renowned and stunning Napali Coast State Wilderness Park deserves increased management as Hawai‘i’s largest and most remote state park.

No one is entitled to monopolize and damage this magnificent public resource.

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Curt Cottrell is an administrator with the DLNR Division of State Parks.

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