LIHU‘E — Some state parks were reopened Wednesday for day beach use or hiking, with restrictions on “gatherings of any sort” according to a news release from the state Department of Land and Natural Resources.
The department is excited to cautiously reintroduce State Park access to Hawai‘i’s residents in this unprecedented time of virtually no out-of-state visitors,” said DLNR Chair Suzanne Case in the Wednesday release. “However, conventional park activities such as parties, gatherings, picnics, setting up on the beach, and camping are still not allowed.”
She emphasized use of the parks is “strictly for mobile activities such as hiking and ocean use to support our residents physical and emotional health during the stay at home mandate.”
On Kauai, the state parks that remain closed are Polihale State Park, which is closed for road repairs, Kalalau Trail beyond Hanakapiai Valley and the Wailua River State Park – though the river access for paddling is allowed at the Kaumuali‘i section of the river.
Open for day use or hiking are the Awa‘awapuhi trails in Kokee State Park and the Kukui Trail in Waimea Canyon State Park — all lookouts are closed, the Russian Fort/Pa‘ula‘ula State Historical Park, Ahukini Pier and Waimea Pier for fishing only, Ha‘ena State Park, and Napali Coast State Park.
DLNR Division of State Parks units across the state, park managers and aquatic biologists are reminding people to be respectful of the places we share with Hawai‘i’s treasured marine creatures.
DLNR Chair Suzanne Case said, “We’re excited people will once again get out, visit, and experience these open spaces and the wildlife that utilize these areas. It is important to remember that these lands are preserved for cultural, aesthetic, and ecological purposes, and as such have specific rules in place in hopes of maintaining these spaces for times like these as well as for future generations.”
As people begin to increase use of parks, Hawaiian monk seals and sea turtles, may be less wary of approaching people and more easily spooked from their haul-out locations and back into the water. With limited volunteer presence during this time, there are fewer visual barriers on beaches than usual, therefore people may be more likely to stumble upon seals. This includes mom and pup pairs as this is the middle of monk seal pupping season. It is important to give moms and nursing pups extra-wide berth during this critical life history stage, both for the protection of the pup and for human safety around protective mother seals.
There have been multiple reports of off-leash dog – monk seal interactions over the past few days. Remember to keep your dogs on leash when you’re on any Hawai‘i shorelines. Interactions between dogs and monk seals can lead to both animals being injured. Violations can carry fines over $2,000.
If you do spot a monk seal or sea turtle and observe any unusual behavior, either with the animals or people interacting with them, please call the NOAA Statewide Marine Animal Hotline (888-256-9840) so a trained wildlife officer can assess the situation.