PRINCEVILLE — Nobody has been cited for trespassing at Queen’s Bath since the fence and gate went up across the trailhead in September 2018.
And it’s not because people are following the rules.
Sitting across the street at the dining room table of neighborhood resident Ian Miles, you can count dozens of people every hour walking past the locked gate — past the NO TRESPASSING signs, around the chain link fence and down the trail that’s supposed to be off limits.
Next door, neighbor Melissa Bonte says she counts hundreds on a daily basis that hit up the trailhead.
Those who ignore the locked gate and signs and walk around the fence to the trailhead can receive a simple trespass citation, which comes with a visit to court that could result in a fine.
Even though crossing around that fence could interrupt their vacation with a court date, it’s not stopping people from taking the chance.
“Tourists do a kind of drive-by photo-op, just go down there to take photos with the big waves,” Miles said about the droves making their way around the fence.
And while ignoring the new fence is a new thing, taking risks at Queen’s Bath isn’t. That’s why the county put the fence up in the first place.
It’s there to stop people from accessing Queen’s Bath when ocean conditions are deemed unsafe. When those unsafe conditions arise, the county requests the Princeville at Hanalei Community Association, headed by Rory Enright, close the gate.
The gate has been closed since November and throughout the winter high surf season, said Kim Tamaoka, spokeswoman for the county.
“Safety is our top priority and with surf conditions varying and changing quickly throughout the day, officials have decided to keep the trail closed until more consistent surf heights are reported,” she wrote.
She said the county checks with the National Weather Service for surf conditions and the Department of Health for brown water advisories on a daily basis.
The county didn’t say when they expect the gate will be reopened.
While the county is exercising a little more control of the Queen’s Bath trailhead, some Princeville residents are concerned the trail will be permanently closed, preventing local access.
Miles and a few others have formed a committee to provide recommendations to the community association about the trailhead.
Their suggestions involve moving parking to a different location and keeping the trailhead open. Enright says he doesn’t think it will work
“Too many people already know,” he said. “It is more likely to create more illegal parking in the neighborhood.”
Enright suggested putting a barrier around the parking lot that can be opened and closed to match the trail status in order to encourage trespassers and risk-takers to move on somewhere else.
“Currently when the trail is closed and visitors see cars in the lot, they follow other trespassers,” he said.
The county owns the parking lot and the easement that hosts the trail and goes through privately owned property. NO PARKING signs line the trailhead and the parking lot where hundreds of cars filter through daily — Kauai Police Department has issued 10 parking citations at Queen’s Bath parking lot since June 2018.
Miles points out that the property is for sale and that there are maps of development potential along the coastline by Queen’s Bath. His fear is the plan is to turn the area into more housing.
The county, though, says if the property is sold, it will not impact the easement.
Tamaoka said the county is open to ideas and input. The gate will be opened when surf height is deemed more consistent by the county.
Jessica Else, environment reporter, can be reached at 245-0452 or at firstname.lastname@example.org