POLIHALE — Some community members on Kaua‘i are hoping they’ll be allowed to help clean up Polihale State Park, but the state Department of Land and Natural Resources is asking people to hold off on entering the park so that the place can rest.
Polihale State Park was among those closed recently due to illegal behavior and overuse, with DLNR pointing to evidence of that activity in Polihale on social media and reports by staff members. DLNR reported a recent weekend of 1,000 people camping in the state park, which has contributed to the park being closed.
As soon as word spread about the conditions of Polihale, residents started coordinating a clean-up in person and on social media. Lihu‘e resident Dickie Chang is among the concerned residents interested in participating in the cleanup, which will happen as soon as the state gives permission for residents to enter the park for that purpose.
Chang has been frequenting Poliahle for years, waking up at 5:30 a.m. on weekdays to make the drive to the park, which has become a place of retreat and healing.
“I am hoping we can get permission to organize (a cleaning), but there are many state and health concerns. I don’t think it’s going to be any time soon or ever,” said Chang. “There is no official organized cleanup yet. Many are standing by and ready to deploy.”
Chang called state Rep. Dee Morikawa for advice on next steps for the cleanup, and on ways to help reopen the state park as soon as possible.
Morikawa said she wrote a letter to DLNR about the issue on Wednesday, and is waiting for a response.
“I know that DLNR needs to figure out where they could use the help, and how to assure COVID-19 rules are taken into consideration,” said Morikawa.
Morikawa said she doubts that DLNR is ready for a community-led cleanup effort in the area.
“I do know that some organizations are ready to jump in when called, (but) this volunteer effort will need to be done with their supervision unless they open the park again,” said Morikawa. “If it was open, it would be easier to get a group out to pick up trash.”
DLNR staff said they’ve received feedback from multiple members of the Kaua‘i community, both in opposition and support of the action.
“Many in support also have offered to assist in management and proposed solutions, which we have long been considering and are taking into consideration,” said DLNR spokesperson Dan Dennison. He said the next step for Polihale State Park is a brief respite for the park, followed by engagement with stakeholders on short- and long-term management solutions. He did not say how long that “brief respite” would be.
“State parks would welcome a stewardship group — as we have at multiple parks statewide — to assist with park management issues, cultural-site protection and enhancement, and outreach and education,” said Dennison. “Offers of support are coming in, which we are appreciative of.”
Stephanie Shinno, features and community reporter, can be reached at 245-0424 or firstname.lastname@example.org.