KALALAU — Six more people were arrested for camping without permits in the Napali Coast’s Kalalau Valley during a three-day Department of Land and Natural Resources operation last week.
Officers with DLNR’s Division of Conservation and Resources Enforcement and the State Parks maintenance team also removed eight young marijuana plants and two and a half tons of trash from the valley.
More than 15 camps were dismantled.
In addition to camps, squatters have established gardens where they are growing bananas, papaya, taro and other fruits in the valley.
DLNR’s goal is to restore lawfulness to Napali and address the natural and cultural resources damage created by long-term squatters and their illegal camps, according to DLNR Chair Suzanne Case.
It’s another in a string of Kalalau stings, and DOCARE officers say the word on tough enforcement appears to be getting out to the pubic.
“These sustained efforts began more than two years ago and are beginning to pay off. Every week we receive correspondence from people who’ve legally hiked into Kalalau and are commenting on how clean the area is and how the number of illegal camps and campers are greatly diminished,” Case said.
Two of those people are State Parks Assistant Administrator Alan Carpenter and archaeologist Sean Newsome, who conducted a rapid reconnaissance of cultural sites in Kalalau Valley a week before the combined clean-up and enforcement operation.
In fact, Carpenter said the Kalalau Valley was the cleanest he’s seen it in the past 25 years, in terms of trash and illegal campers.
“The degradation to cultural sites is at an all-time high, however, because those impacts are cumulative, representing decades of abuse,” Carpenter said. “Reversing those impacts and restoring sites is a future goal, requiring a combination of documentation, compliance, staffing and community stewardship.”
Additional work to protect the cultural and natural resources of the area is imperative, but Carpenter said he’s encouraged to see “an improved experience for permitted visitors.”
Seven State Parks staff and between six and twelve DOCARE officers were involved daily during last week’s operation.
The cost of labor, plus supplies and fuel, makes the operations particularly difficult, according to State Parks Administrator Curt Cottrell. He says a permanent staff, dedicated to patrolling the Kalalau Valley is needed to make real progress.
Dedicated staff would deter the return of illegal camping and insure authorized limits, help eliminate the overuse of composting toilets, provide additional campsite and trail maintenance service on a daily basis, direct campers to the authorized camping areas, further inform campers about on site safety issues and the sensitivity and history of cultural sites, and support both hikers and kayakers who may sustain injuries in this remote and unique wilderness destination.
“A critical method to enhance public safety, protect significant historic features and to ultimately insure the quality of the wildness experience is to create permanent staff with specific equipment for Kalalau,” Cottrell said.