Polihale closed indefinitely

  • Bill Buley / The Garden Island file

    This bridge along the road to and from Polihale State Park washes out often, but now is closed due to illegal activity and overuse in Polihale.

POLIHALE — Polihale State Park has been closed to the public indefinitely, with the Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources stating the reason is reckless, illegal behavior and overuse.

It’s among several State Parks areas within Hawaii that have been recently targeted for closure due to behavior DLNR labels as “egregious”.

And while some residents and Kaua‘i officials applauded the Tuesday announcement, others question whether more effort wasn’t put into enforcement of the rules prior to closing the park — a place long-known to be rampant with illegal camping and other activities.

In announcing the park closure, DLNR said it is nearly impossible to enforce park rules due to its large size and isolated location. COVID-19 has exacerbated all those issues, and public health and safety concerns, contributed to the decision to close the park.

Specific illegal activities listed include numerous complaints about large gatherings and a lack of social distancing, despite emergency orders, widespread defecation within the fragile dune system, and trucks racing on the beach and driving through the dunes.

DLNR also pointed out a recent weekend during which more than 1,000 people were camped in the state park, with only 80 legally permitted.

“Crucially, last week, the Department of Health reached out to Parks expressing specific concerns about the lack of social distancing, large crowds and defecation and unsanitary conditions at Polihale,” said DLNR’s media relations officer Giovonni Parks in a Wednesday statement about the closure.

Parks explained the activity was documented through posts on social media and DLNR staff observed and reported the activity, but no rule-breakers have been fined, cited or arrested for their actions.

Kaua‘i officials sounded off on the topic on Wednesday, with Mayor Derek Kawakami emphasizing personal responsibility and the need for the community to care for public spaces.

“Let’s speak frankly. Polihale was shut down because people were not following the rules,” Kawakami said in a Wednesday statement to The Garden Island. “And now responsible families, who were using this time to reconnect with each other and enjoy special places like Polihale, are suffering the consequences.”

He pointed out examples of the same type of disrespect he’s seen on county property, pointing the finger at “a small group of our own people”.

“There aren’t any visitors to blame this time. It’s our collective kuleana to take care of our public spaces and we have to take responsibility for our own actions and accept the consequences,” Kawakami said.

Representative Dee Morikawa said she’s been hearing rumors of a desire to shut down Polihale, and when the park reopened a few weeks ago, “it was already known that masses of people were going there.”

“I want to know why enforcement or monitoring wasn’t done regularly,” Morikawa said. “Not enough resources to enforce rules, is a bad answer, since (DLNR) is the agency to do that. If DLNR didn’t have the capability to do maintenance and enforce rules, they should have never opened it up.”

Morikawa, as well as Senator Ron Kouchi, confirmed they’re following up with DLNR on next steps — questioning the department on their plans for constructing a gate and enforcing the new park closure, as well as ideas on how to reopen the park.

“I am hopeful we can work with the administration to find a resolution to this issue,” Kouchi said in a Wednesday statement.

DLNR spokesperson Dan Dennison confirmed that there are only about 10 staff members employed on Kaua‘i to care for and enforce rules in all of the state parks — and that the department is strapped for cash and State Parks is working with limited resources.

The Division of State Parks relies on appropriations from the Legislature, significant operating income from entrance, parking, camping, lodging and concession fees – mostly collected from out-of-state visitors. Additionally, State Parks used to be allocated a very small portion of the State’s Transient Accommodations Tax (TAT) for a percentage of its funding. State Park income is flat – just like the hotel industry. As such, TAT collections and distributions have been suspended due to the COVID-19 and subsequent State fiscal crisis.

For FY 2020-2021 the legislature appropriated $6.5 million for State Parks Operation and Administration.

DLNR is currently considering access protocols for hunters, beach access and gathering, but a department spokesperson said “public health and the overall protection of the resource is paramount. The damaging and unhealthy behavior of inconsiderate and reckless park users is ruining it for those legitimate users who obey the rules.”

Kaua‘i resident Dom Acain said Wednesday he agrees with the closure of Polihale Beach Park, but suggests a switch to monitored enforcement of existing rules instead of a complete shutdown of public access.

“As a lineal descendant whose family have respected, revered, lived, fished and hunted in the area for centuries I humbly applaud and support the decision to close down access,” Acain said, pointing out the abuse to the facilities and the land. “With that said, would be workable to allow only licensed hunters to access the road to specific hunting areas?”

DLNR spokespeople said the department understands that given the length of the now-closed access road, reaching Polihale will be difficult, but the unsanitary conditions due to overcrowding and the public health crisis brought on by COVID-19 take precedence right now over ease of access.


Jessica Else, editor, can be reached at 245-0457 or jelse@thegardenisland.com.

  1. randy kansas July 30, 2020 2:10 am Reply

    look in the mirror……no tourists or rich mainlanders to blame for any of these current problems…peel back the layers…..we are lucky the rich land and home owners, are paying their property taxes….

  2. Da Shadow July 30, 2020 2:39 am Reply

    tourists ruining it for the rest of us

    ….oh wait…

    1. Trudy February 13, 2021 9:35 am Reply

      Was there twice. Nobody there but my husband and I.

  3. Art Vandalay July 30, 2020 3:27 am Reply

    And hence forth, any time I see “the tourist don’t respect our land, this land is our sacred land” I’m going to point back to this article, written in the middle of a pandemic when there is virtually no tourism on the island. It ain’t the tourist dawg.

    1. SANDI August 1, 2020 4:38 pm Reply

      I am local. But if you re- read this article, it is NOT tourists. Regardless who it is. People raise your children properly. Respect the land, obey the laws, comply comply. Until we stop having children that we can not afford and raise properly, the beautiful islands will be destroyed. It is greed selfishness to be congregating during this pandemic, let alone, abusing the land by camping, and defecating on the soil, etc.

      1. Loladog August 3, 2020 7:43 pm Reply

        Pick up your poop!

  4. David July 30, 2020 3:28 am Reply

    Close many of the dirt roads in Like a because of a fire danger permanently, now close parks because some people break the rules. DLNR needs more funding so they can keep the areas of Kauai open for the public to use and enjoy. Closure is not the answer, enforcement of rules is so responsible people can enjoy our natural beauty.
    Open theorists and parks, that is your mandate to keep our natural resources so we can enjoy them not take them away.

  5. MGB July 30, 2020 4:11 am Reply

    Can’t blame this on “visitors.

    1. Deej August 1, 2020 7:25 pm Reply

      Nerfing the world. one small step at a time.

  6. Anahola Paul July 30, 2020 6:24 am Reply

    Why can’t the DLNR charge a PARK FEE to enter? They do it in the canyon and Haena and I think that is successful. Have a gate entrance that is monitored. Perhaps they can use the funds to update the park and finally fix that road going into the park. Our parks have to be maintained and monitored for good visitor behavior.

    1. douglas henry July 30, 2020 12:07 pm Reply

      My sentiments exactly- thank you

    2. AL July 30, 2020 2:56 pm Reply

      I completely agree. The access and entry would pay for itself eventually, and people would understand the park rules as they enter.

  7. patriot July 30, 2020 6:54 am Reply

    Bad behavior meaning they were not cowering at home in fear. Instead they were out having fun. Hawaii has become a dystopia. Quarantine the healthy. Hide the cure. Criminalize normal people.

    1. Ruby July 30, 2020 11:27 am Reply

      I guess they forgot to take a poo at home before they went out to “have fun”…or did you miss the part about deification in the dunes.

      1. Sky Diggs July 30, 2020 11:02 pm Reply

        And may I ask you this Ms. Poo poos on the potty. Where oh where did we poop when there was no indoor plumbing or outhouses??? Have you ever experienced the smell and utter nastiness of an overused Hawaiian DLNR installed composting toilet?! And I must ask if you’ve experienced the searing hot heat of midday Polihali sun??? That doo-doo is baked to a crisp by 3pm each successive day and returns back to da Aina completing the circle of… Digestion. Can I get a mahalo Ke Akua?!

        1. Rick July 31, 2020 9:55 pm Reply

          Sky diggs wins all time greatest comment on the garden island website.

    2. semperubisububi July 31, 2020 9:49 am Reply

      Did you even READ the article? Yours is an asinine response.

    3. kathy August 5, 2020 12:19 pm Reply

      trump dumb idiot.

  8. Palani July 30, 2020 7:06 am Reply

    For decades, tourists have been blamed for all sins. Now there is no scapegoat. We now know the truth: the residents of Kauai are an unruly group!
    What’s more disturbing is that if they were tourists, they would have been cited. Since they are residents, the police do nothing.
    Is it time to ask the question about the double standard? Is there police favoritism? Corruption?

    1. Steve July 31, 2020 10:49 pm Reply

      The Police are not responsible for enforcement at Polihale, it’s a DLNR thing. Putting this off on the Police won’t fix the problem, properly fund the responsible agency (DLNR) then demand results of them.

      1. Loladog August 3, 2020 8:13 pm Reply

        The on-island visitors to Polihale are responsible for their actions. Not the police or DLNR, but the visitors themselves. Who is responsible for the on-island visitors’ actions? Everyone had a parent or two at sometime. There is an old saying that “you don’t crap in your own backyard”. But if I do, my responsible person will promptly clean it up. No excuse for this abuse.

  9. Westside Resident July 30, 2020 7:15 am Reply

    There is something really pathetic about this. The fact that the myth that ‘locals’ are more noble than visitors has been debunked is perhaps it. But also that we are being scolded by the Mayor. Or maybe it is because the State and the County have depleted their resources to manage our parks. Maybe because lawlessness is in vogue, and nothing is done about it typically. Our park in Waimea has been occupied by homeless for more than a decade for instance…what has been done? Furthermore, if development increases, does the island have the capacity to remain in character with an ever increasing population? … why such extreme action to protect our public recreation space now? Covid? Well, it seems the sheep are happy to praise our leadership for their Covid response, so there should therefore be no complaints about Polihale closing under the circumstances. Something is severely awry.

  10. Kama'aina July 30, 2020 8:02 am Reply

    What if our roads or schools or anything were regulated like this? No oversight, no policing, left to get out of control then closed indefinitely. If there was no police on the road making sure speeding is rare do we really thing there would be a reason for drivers to observe the law. Polihale does’t even have signs posted to inform people not to drive on the dunes or where camping is permitted. What did DLNR think was going to happen? They used to go out and sweep the beach on busy weekends to inform people of the rules. Why was it needed then and not now. It seems simple enough to post one DLNR cop at the entrance to the park asking if you are camping and see your camp permit or informing day users on the park rules and hours. To close the park is irresponsible to law abiding residents of Kauai especially during this time of not being free to do many other things with our ohana. Do your job DLNR. Thats what our taxes pay you for. And Mayor, wake up, you are flexing and talking down to the people that gave you power. If you continue to step on our freedoms you will lose our support. You work for Kauai not the other way around.

    1. douglas henry July 30, 2020 12:08 pm Reply

      right on the money!

    2. Edward R. Speyer August 2, 2020 2:09 pm Reply

      I definitely agree that closing down areas that lead to the beach has been going on for the last 25 years. Now Polihale for surfing, fishing, hunting etc. is a big problem. Some policing has to be done to keep the abusers at bay and not have the rest of us suffer. Please Mayor use your considerable influence to get it resolved.

  11. Rev Dr Malama July 30, 2020 8:50 am Reply

    Mahalo Ms. Morikawa,
    You are always a voice of reason for the people who are MISSING representation at the State level regarding the protection of our NATURAL resources and rights to peaceful enjoyment.
    Unfortunately I must concur (again) that dlnr lame excuses are not reassuring when it has been proven that the dlnr is in cahoots with the feds in procuring control of and then harrassing or locking out the public who is the actual customer entitled to the lands and sea….
    Another reason to claim our Independence from the belligerent and illegal usa sooner than later so that we can manage our Nation in the proper manner.

    1. George Ho July 30, 2020 7:40 pm Reply

      You sir don’t comprehend very well. LOCALS have been destroying the park and disrespecting the a’ina. Your kingdom has turned a blind eye to the activities. You are a political hack. If you wanted action – you would have called out your bruhs that were part of the delinquents screwing it up for the rest of us.

    2. sandi August 1, 2020 4:50 pm Reply

      I am local. I feel bad that the “hawaiian kingdom lost their land years ago to the USA. But to blame ANYONE for this type of behavior onto the as you say: state level, is ignorant. How long has Hawaii been a state? Rubbing salt into your own blood daily for things that will not change is a waste of life. If people all around the world,Regardless who it is. People raise your children properly. Respect the land, obey the laws, comply comply. Until we stop having children that we can not afford and raise properly, the beautiful islands will be destroyed. It is greed & selfishness to be congregating during this pandemic, let alone, abusing the land by camping, and defecating on the soil, etc. I applaud taking away from those that can not learn. Yes, it hurts the rest of us. But, unfortunately, there are waaay too many adults that do not know how to show respect. THANK YOU ODNR for shutting this down until things can straighten out.

  12. Rick July 30, 2020 8:50 am Reply

    So lets say some hunters are hunting without tags, Under these idiots, why not ban hunting for everyone? This leadership is a joke. Yeah guys sorry but drunk drivers keep causing accidents so we gotta ban cars.. and drinking… and bars… and TENTS.

    1. sandi August 1, 2020 4:58 pm Reply

      I don’t agree. Leadership is showing that unless one can learn to respect and obey laws things will need to start changing. We have been afraid to offend others for way too long. Anyone and anyone, who can sit and think it is ok to do anything wrong, is wrong. If one doesn’t have a conscience about any wrongdoings, then we must have law and order to think for those without the intellectual thought process. Thank goodness that some of these places are being shut down until a proper way to share such a beautiful place can be figured out.

  13. LJ July 30, 2020 9:24 am Reply

    Funny that the DLNR and mayor Kawakami should mention broken rules as a reason for closure. From the DLNR website:
    “Shoreline public access is an important common law right that is shared by local residents and visitors alike. The right of access to Hawaii’s shorelines includes the right of transit along the shoreline and within beach transit corridors. Beach transit corridors are defined as the areas extending seaward of the shoreline and these areas are considered public property (HRS §115-5, HRS §205A-1). One of the common issues that can limit shoreline public access in Hawaii is shoreline vegetation. Certain types of vegetation are known to grow rapidly along the shorelines of Hawaii – particularly Naupaka, Beach Morning Glory, and Beach Heliotrope. When shoreline vegetation is left unmaintained, it can encroach into beach transit corridors and limit shoreline public access.”

    So, apparently the DLNR and the mayor can supercede the state legislature/house whenever they feel the public needs a “scolding”. Seems like we should start building a throne……

    1. LMat July 30, 2020 11:22 am Reply

      LJ, this was my first thought too. Just shut down the beach because they don’t want to deal with driving out there to enforce rules…? Definitely seems like a strategically-motivated move by DLNR to not have to deal with monitoring Polihale.
      C’mon, this is a handful of locals that are behaving like idiots. A couple of rounds of some harsh enforcement on the beach may have been enough to snap some sense into these guys without having to shut it down for everybody…

    2. MT July 31, 2020 6:15 am Reply

      I think you’re allowed 10 people on a permit? 80 permits… Do the math.

  14. Joe Public July 30, 2020 9:46 am Reply

    DLNR has always gave a blind eye towards Polihale because they are too lazy to drive there to enforce. How about assigning one of them their full time like they had at Haena

  15. That one guy July 30, 2020 9:56 am Reply

    they got cought lying about this. They used other park pitchers across the Hawaii islands to amp the close of this land. Governments and newspapers lie lie lie lie.

    1. loladog August 3, 2020 8:39 pm Reply

      caught some fish recently … I’ll show you some pictures. Fake News, I guess. Went to school and paid attention, I did.

  16. Kauaidoug July 30, 2020 10:24 am Reply

    Just wondering if DLNR has also stopped doing “green harvest” as well? A good use for that helicopter would have been land it on the beach with some supporting agents to hand out FINES, not warmings. The locals will get the idea and social media will do the rest to warn people to obey and respect the law protecting our state parks. I think if that had been done once the park could remain open for the rest of us who would love to enjoy that which is Polihale. But no. Thanks. Can’t blame the tourist for little and filth left on our beaches. This is on us

    1. Steven July 31, 2020 10:57 pm Reply

      Park Pitchers ?

    2. loladog August 3, 2020 8:43 pm Reply

      I got little warming about the litter warning too!

  17. Mailman Mike July 30, 2020 11:03 am Reply

    Wow. I was surprised to hear this is happening. I live in Hanama’ulu.

  18. douglas henry July 30, 2020 12:26 pm Reply

    Vandalism has been going on in our parks for years and not much has been done to stop it. Tourists don’t fly out here with the purpose of spray painting bathroom walls, busting toilets and sinks, and stealing shower nozzles. It’s the residents of Kauai that are doing it.
    I’ve noticed that when you give a kid or an adult something for free, they don’t take care of it like they would if they had to pay for it.
    There should be a ranger station at the gate, a camping fee and a day use fee. Limit the number of people entering during covid19. Ticket violators.
    Enough is enough! It’s shameful. I’ve seen better facilities in third world countries. DLNR-do something! Politicians-do something!

  19. Tony Reis July 30, 2020 1:52 pm Reply

    Why don’t instead of punishing the law abiding citizen do what the mainland has done for decades. Block all access and have a pay entrance where the revenue generated pays for private security and porta potti services. Post porti potti at designated areas.

    1. Doug July 30, 2020 4:03 pm Reply

      So agree! We need to create jobs anyway. The fees could be modest – just enough to cover what is needed. Additional funding can come from fining the abusers. We need to demand more creative solutions from our elected officials and DLNR than just shutting down these resources.

  20. csensekauai July 30, 2020 2:56 pm Reply

    Paradise lost.. unfortunately a victim of social media. It spreads like wildfire. One person posts a pic on facebook or instagram and everyone that sees it goes “I wanna do that”, “I wanna go there”-and there you have it 1000 trucks on the beach because everyone else is doing it. Posing for selfies and pics then sitting under a 10X10 and posting to see how many likes they have. Iv’e seen this first hand. These people have no clue what the history and spirit of Polihale is and the RESPECT it deserves. Now, the people who actually use this area to hunt, fish and gather are the ones suffering from the loss of access. Hopefully this is a wake up call to everyone addicted to their social media “likes” to get over themselves and think about everyone on this island. Please stay home or invite your friends to your place for a selfie fest and post, post,post, maybe when you have 1000 cars and trucks in your yard with people crapping and pissing all over the place it will make you think?? Hmmmm…

    1. sandi August 1, 2020 5:10 pm Reply

      I agree. Social media will be the death of this planet as once known. Its all just so sad. And as the population grows, it will continue to decline its beauty. I feel awfully bad for any land anywhere that will be destroyed by the lack of parenting children properly. We were raised to not litter one iota. To be respectable to land, people, and our selves. Family of 10 raised with all the same rules and we live by this code. It’s how one is raised. We never had money, but we were taught to love and respect what we had. People have children now and can not afford it, but its different then the ole days, there is not enough money for food for these kids. Not enough proper attention time to give them education and behavioral teachings. Show me an individual at any age that does not respect, then you can look back at their upbringing and know that there was a weak link, be it education, intelligence, or bad upbringing being handed down generation to generation.

  21. Lillikoi July 30, 2020 4:45 pm Reply

    Entitled north shore kids allowed by their entitled north shore parents.
    Shame on you all.

  22. bb4kauai July 30, 2020 4:52 pm Reply

    Come on folks, this is Kauai. You cannot tell me that someone reading this article and these comments don’t know who these boys are? We sure can call out the tourists and print their name and photo in the paper for violating the rules. How bout some names and photos of these boys and a citation for ruining our ‘Āina. Oh what my parents would have done to me if I had done that…

  23. Kauaian July 30, 2020 5:41 pm Reply

    Garden Isle community’s nose just got rubbed in dirt. Even if there were less restrictions where is the common sense? Such a disgrace. Don’t forget, an individual is always held responsible/accountable for their own actions.

  24. Susan Lanes July 30, 2020 11:27 pm Reply

    This all makes me very sad, and angry. We came to the island to visit relatives, decades ago, spending a day by ourselves at Polihale. I know things change but I love Hawaii, and taught my students about it every year. Such treasures once destroyed can’t be remade.

  25. Mb July 31, 2020 4:25 am Reply

    This has been happening for over 20 years and the county still cannot manage our resources properly. It’s a disgrace on both sides but even more the lack of management from our elected officials. Just like the traffic on our island. Poor choices bad decisions, pushing the blame on everyone except the worse foresight and planning by our officials. Take the blame Mayor and council members. The people are good just enforce the bad ones. You can’t find the money, ridiculous, so much county and state poor management of budget. Take ownership Kawakami and stop trying to push it on out people.

  26. Rick July 31, 2020 10:09 pm Reply

    Seems like most people would agree here that closing it for everyone is ridiculous. Perhaps this will help these same people to realize that our leaders have blown it in MANY WAYS. This guys have tasted “emergency power” and now they think they can do whatever they want.

  27. White Hole August 1, 2020 6:47 am Reply

    I’m hungry

  28. Debra Kekaualua August 1, 2020 6:54 am Reply

    Occupying militaropoliticojudicio COK fake state and our circus clowns that think they above the law! RICO, FBI, DEA is playing their ace cards that include Unexposed “guilty kealoha stolen mailbox fraud”. I wanda how many thousands of Kauaians fit that hui of Luci’s. It doesnt matter color or where you transplanted from. There are now more transplants than there are locals, just lOOkum license plates from “new jersey” “utah” Daybell Mormons, and Harbor Mall owner Kauai mormon leader in Wailua who purchased the Bell Stones from DLNR and put them in his riverside TVR federal property.

  29. White Hole August 1, 2020 6:56 am Reply

    Come on, give me a break. Polihale as well as this island have been here for thousands and thousands of years, way before any one stepped foot on it. It’s done just fine through lava, hurricanes, floods, wind and sun. If you really think a couple people passing in the sand and driving a truck on the beach is gonna kill the island, your ridiculous. It’s be doing fine so far and doesn’t need the MAN lending it a hand. Yeah, of course the people should keep it clean, but don’t try to change polihale. North shore toll booth sucks. Ruined whole experience. Don’t be so lame. We are just people using this rock for now, it will still be here when we all gone.

  30. Real locals only August 1, 2020 7:52 am Reply

    Let only the real locals born and raised in. Not mainland implants that over crowd our island use up all our resources cause traffic and think there locals all of a sudden. Go back mainland stop using up our fragile Aina. And it’s not DLNRs fault if any of you was brought up on Kauai and raised right you would know how to respect the land and take care of it with no policing.

    1. loladog August 3, 2020 9:02 pm Reply

      Apparently only our real locals trashed Polihale.

  31. wasted words August 1, 2020 9:34 am Reply

    venting frustration on this site feels good, does nothing. its a useless exercise that makes one feel like they have “done something” and spoken their minds. If that’s all you are going to do, why bother? The best use of this platform is to consolidate good ideas and propose a collective plan to the county and dlnr. Dont waste your breath here… instead, have impact and write or call :

    Division of State Parks
    3060 Eiwa Street, Suite 306
    Lihue, Hawai‘i 96766
    Phone: (808) 274-3444
    Fax: (808) 274-3448

    email: dlnr@hawaii.gov and write the mayor here : mayor@kauai.gov


  32. looooooo August 1, 2020 3:32 pm Reply

    I understand there are other issues involved but Covid shouldn’t be being used as an excuse to close anything on island right now. We have zero cases. The curve has been flattened. The hospital is not being over run. There’s not a health crisis here. This is a special time when residents can enjoy the island without all the tourists. I understand that the risks increase as we let others on island but things should be less limited for us now, not more.

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