KILAUEA — A gravel road runs from Kahili Makai Road to the edge of the Kilauea River, and signs should be welcoming people to the area.
It’s all part of a plan in partnership with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service that allows for responsible access and use of the historic Kahili Quarry and a go-to beach.
But the new signs that explain the partnership and the “Best Behavior” standards were stolen at the end of May.
“Not even 24 hours (after they were installed) someone had already cut the posts for the Best Behavior sign and the welcome sign. They just ripped that right off the posts,” said Jennifer Waipa, an official with the USFWS and a supervisor at the Kilauea Point National Wildlife Refuge.
A repaired road and signage are both results of years of work between USFWS and the group, Kia‘i Kahili, which translates along the lines of “Caretakers of Kahili.”
Kia‘i Kahili was born out of meetings in 2015, when USFWS was connecting with the Kilauea community about their comprehensive conservation plan.
Originally, the USFWS conservation plan closed the area in the evenings, but USFWS decided to work with locals to allow for local stewardship and management — and to allow for 24-hour local access.
“It was important to the community to have 24-hour access,” Waipa said.
Also involved in the planning and cooperation are the Kilauea Neighborhood Association, Aina Ho‘okupu o Kilauea, and the Hawaiian Islands Land Trust.
“The mission of Kia‘i Kahili is to achieve ecological and cultural vitality, connection and continued responsible recreation through collaborative education and stewardship,” reads a news release about the stolen signs.
As the massive potholes that littered the dirt road access to Kahili Quarry were fixed and the road grated to a condition drivable by smaller vehicles, organizations and community members teamed up and worked on verbiage for the signs.
Along with fixing the road, installing the signs was the first act of the group when it comes to management of the area.
The cost of each of the two signs was about $3,500 — plus labor.
“There was time and effort put into it, and we’re sad about that,” Waipa said of the vandalism. “Disappointed. It basically took the wind out from us.”
Kia‘i Kahili is getting ready to convene and do some troubleshooting. They’ve got a set of back-up signs and will put them out soon.
“We’ve received feedback from folks who go down there regularly and offered suggestions on placement,” Waipa said. “And we’re going out into the community with the program to do education.”
The plan was to bring people down Kahili Makai Road and to the water’s edge to explain the management and stewardship plan, but that was canceled after the signs were stolen.
“We’re regrouping, looking at other aspects, and (figuring out) how to explain what the purpose of the program is and what we’re hoping for,” Waipa said. “I want folks to understand this is a community program, it’s not just the Fish and Wildlife Service. It’s larger.”
An investigation into the signs theft is underway. Anyone with more information is encouraged to call KPD at 241-1711 or 792-9549.
Jessica Else, environment writer, can be reached at 245-0452 or firstname.lastname@example.org.