HAENA — Amidst one of the busiest holiday weekends of the year, a new resident organization on Kauai implemented visitor education initiatives to relieve the resurfacing pressures of tourism on the communities of Haena and Wainiha.
A new parks management strategy was implemented by the state Department of Land and Natural Resources for Haena State Park, and community members of the area are disappointed with the lack of adequate preparation previously promised by the state in anticipation for the return of visitor traffic, according to a press release from the new organization, Kuhio Highway Regulation.
Island visitors were unable to access the area for over a year due to massive landslides and immense water damage to the highway triggered by flooding in April of 2018.
Only registered residents were allowed to utilize the road through a convoy system during that time.
Kuhio Highway Regulation inventoried various areas of concern in the region from July 2 to 5. The group was able to identify the impacts of over-tourism on their resources, infrastructure and community.
Resident volunteers aimed to provide better on-site management and a higher-quality visitor experience recently by providing information, ensuring full awareness of specifics relating to the Haena Master Plan which aims to set parameters for visitors to these culturally and biologically significant corners of the island.
The group has summarized the situation as follows:
Although the intention by the state to limit impact is honorable, visitors continue to traverse the stretch of rural roadway and its fragile infrastructure, only to be turned around at the end of the road due to a lack of reservation or parking pass, the organization’s release said.
The new Haena park management system has significant flaws including a lack of thorough visitor outreach, which leads to visitors being often completely unaware of the fact they now need a reservation and parking pass to visit Haena State Park, the group’s release continued.
Aimless transit on the narrow highway contributes to illegal parking, traffic hazards and overcrowding for the communities en route.
Residents intricately surveyed the entry point of Waipa on Thursday, July 4, from 7 a.m. to 1 p.m., gaining further insight on the specifics.
Of the nearly 400 visitor rental vehicles addressed between that timeframe, only 26% had a parking pass to visit the Haena area.
Many visitors did not know about the shuttle option and were frustrated by the fact that same-day reservations for the parking passes or shuttle service were not available, as they require prearranged reservations.
Many of the parking stalls at Haena State Park remained underutilized, with over half of the stalls designated for visitors remaining empty in the early afternoon hours of July 4.
Aside from lack of visitor awareness about the new parking-pass process, there is a sincere lack of compliance effort by the state, with the resident group observing and recording a plethora of illegal parking in the area, they said.
The Kauai Police Department refused to issue parking citations, noting conflicting signage in the area across Haena beach that sees overflow during peak visitor conditions.
Officers said they are waiting for the state Department of Transportation to remedy the signage issue so there are clear lines for enforcement.
Kuhio Highway Regulation provided active visitor education through the holiday weekend, providing information on specifics of parking, and hiking and camping permitting processes.
The group communicated availability of the North Shore shuttle service and the link for reservations, conveyed parking courtesies to prevent illegal parking, and stressed the importance of reef-safe sunscreen and ocean-safety awareness.
Kuhio Highway Regulation summarized their efforts as “urgent measures to ensure visitor safety and liveability for residents” according to Administrator Keira Oberg-Diaz.
A visitor code of conduct for the area and links to secure parking passes and shuttle services for Haena State Park are available on the website, www.KuhioHwyRegulation.com.
Anyone interested in assisting with their objective of enhancing visitor awareness and education may email firstname.lastname@example.org.