PRINCEVILLE — Three months after a chainlink fence was put up in front of the trailhead at Queen’s Bath, a well-worn path leads around the end of it and connects with the main trail.
Even with signs advising “No trespassing” and a gate that’s closed and locked when conditions are unsafe, people are still hiking down to the dangerous site. So the Princeville Community Association is now extending the fence to try to prevent more deaths.
“We’re taking the next step to see if we can be more successful in keeping people out,” said Rory Enright, general manager of PCA.
The original fence was installed on county property in September and extends from the small, paved parking lot, crosses the trailhead and then runs 10 to 15 feet further. In the center is a gate that is closed at the request of the county, not the PCA.
“The County of Kauai’s role is to close it if there is a brown water advisory from the Department of Health (DOH) or if the bay is deemed unsafe because of hazardous ocean conditions,” said Lyle Tabata, acting county engineer.
And while PCA, the county and DOH are all working together to keep the gate open and closed at appropriate times, the fence is built in such a way that it’s been easy for people to walk around it, ignoring warnings of big waves and hazardous conditions.
“Walkers just went around. It killed all the plants and now it looks like a normal path around the fence,” Enright said. “People see the signs, but they ignore them.”
Workers with Kauai Nursery &Landscaping, which is the landscaping company for PCA, are currently extending the fence to a big fan palm tree, adding about six new poles and continuing chainlink all the way to the tree.
The project should be finished this week. The cost of the extension is $8,500, paid for by PCA.
“Normally, we wouldn’t allow chainlink (in the Princeville community), but it’s effective,” Enright said. “What we’re going to do is do some planting so the fence disappears behind plantings and it discourages people from climbing it.”
Cat’s claw was the original idea, but that plant can get out of control fast. PCA is now looking at bougainvillea, which is thorny, will climb the fence, and has vivid flowers.
The question of closing access to Queen’s Bath has been an ongoing community conversation for years because of the place’s deadly history and incredible popularity with visitors.
The most recent death occurred in early December when Yayun Cheng, 23, of California, was swept from the rocky shoreline while taking a photograph. She’s only the most recent of many people who have died there.
The search for Cheng was called off Dec. 10. Enright said visitors still trying to go for a day hike to Queen’s Bath were being turned away at the gate while the search was ongoing.
In September, Enright estimated between 300 and 500 people were visiting Queen’s Bath every day. He expected the numbers are the same — even with big-wave season starting to roar in.
“The season doesn’t seem to make much of a difference anymore,” Enright said. “This fence will hopefully send the right message that there’s times one shouldn’t be down there and will hopefully result in saving lives.”