KALALAU — Twenty more overnight camping permits are becoming available for Kalalau. The first day the peak-season permits will be available is Tuesday.
It wasn’t an easy decision for the state Department of Land and Natural Resources Division of State Parks, especially after targeted work clearing out the illegal campers in the area, but officials are taking the leap so the public can have better access.
“Maintaining control in such an isolated and difficult place to access and manage is always tenuous,” said Curt Cottrell, State Parks administrator.
The extra overnight camping permits are for peak season, between May 15 and Oct. 31, when weather and surf conditions are typically calmer.
The first day these peak-season permits will be available to walk-in applicants is Tuesday. Permits can be obtained for a maximum of five nights, and a maximum of five people.
Over 500,000 visitors a year hike the first two miles of the Kalalau Trail, but permits to trek beyond Hanakapiai and overnight on the trail at Hanakoa or Kalalau are limited to 60 permitted persons per night. The additional permits will up that legal limit to 80 during the summer and early fall.
Illegal camping and outdoor wilderness living are popular in the Kalalau Valley, which has been touted on social media as a mecca for those who’d like to live off the grid.
In 2015, officers with DLNR’s Division of Conservation and Resources Enforcement started performing unannounced, regular enforcement operations where staff members were transported to the area via helicopter in search of illegal campers.
Since then, DOCARE has made improvements to the area by arresting hundreds of people squatting and illegally camping on Kalalau Beach, and in Kalalau Valley and surrounding areas.
Most of those illegal campers were given citations and ordered to appear in court, according to DLNR, and a few were taken into custody and taken to jail.
Dedicated enforcement for the area isn’t in the DOCARE budget, and the unannounced operations were due to an increase of dedicated resources to cleaning up the Kalalau.
According to officials, it looks like those resources are going to keep on coming.
“We’ve been advocating for additional park staff positions for Napali, and it looks like we’ll be getting them soon, which contributed to us offering these additional opportunities. We’ll have new tools and more eyes and ears on the coast and will be evaluating the impacts of this increased capacity,” Cottrell said.
The new permits being released for the peak season time period will be issued first to walk-in applicants at the Lihue State Parks office. On the following day, any remaining permits will be available to anyone via DLNR’s online permit reservation system.
Cost for permits is $15 per person per night for Hawaii residents, and $20 per night for non-residents.
“We’re really pleased to be able to add additional capacity for camping in Napali,” said state Board of Land and Natural Resources Chairperson Suzanne Case. “People have been asking for us to reinstate the policy, but it would have been irresponsible to invite more people in legally when the illegal use and associated impacts to the environment, cultural resources and our infrastructure were too great.”
She continued: “Thanks to the sustained effort from our enforcement division and our field crews, as well as a welcome social media backlash against the illegal transient community, Kalalau is now ready to host a few more visitors.”
Jessica Else, environmental reporter, can be reached at 245-0452 or email@example.com.