DLNR mulls reopening Polihale soon

  • Contributed photo

    This proposed sign is to be placed at locations around Polihale State Park on the Westside.

  • The Garden Island file photo

    A lone set of footprints dots the sand along the beach at Polihale State Park on the Westside.

HONOLULU — The state Department of Land and Natural Resources Division of State Parks is preparing for the reopening of Polihale State Park.

No firm date has yet been set.

Due to overuse and abuse, the popular beach and camping area was shut down. On one weekend in July, an estimated 1,000 people camped illegally.

Reopening will likely happen within the next few weeks, however, if park users do not comply with park rules, it will close again.

“Clearly we have management and enforcement deficiencies made worse by the current pandemic and related fiscal constraints,” said Suzanne Case, chair of the state Board of Land and Natural Resources.

“We will not allow resources to be degraded, so we are asking park users to behave as expected or we will be forced to close Polihale again.”

State-park leadership has been meeting with lineal- and cultural-descendant families from the area to exchange ideas and formulate short-, medium- and long-term plans for improved park management. Some have been granted cultural access to the park to conduct clean-ups and malama cultural sites, including burials, located within the sensitive dune system.

Although these families have been caring for the ‘aina for generations, many others are not aware of the cultural significance of the area. It is hoped that widespread adoption of caring for Polihale will lead to much improved compliance, Case said.

“A stewardship agreement is a potential outcome, and would be a welcome augmentation for park maintenance and management,” said Curt Cottrell, state parks administrator.

“In the short-term, DSP will install clearer messaging of park rules through new signage and printed flyers. Thirty new speed-bumps have already been installed to discourage speeding and damage to the park’s five-mile-long, unimproved entry road. A decision on whether to allow overnight camping has not been made,” Cottrell said.

Medium-term proposals include a possible permit entry system for all vehicles entering the park. A successful model has been in place for years at O‘ahu’s Ka‘ena Point State Park, where permittees are provided explicit maps of designated roads. They commit to abiding by all rules and are subject to having their access revoked if they break them.

Long-term measures include capital improvement projects aimed at protecting the dunes, enhancing access, parking, and camping areas, as well as adding better educational and interpretive devices to focus on the important cultural and natural resources of the park. Adding toilets near the Po‘oahonu (Queen’s Pond) area of the park is also critical to protecting the sanctity of this area, officials said.

A long-standing issue is the dangerous combination of driving on the beach and camping without permits. Both are illegal activities under state parks administrative rules.

“In the future this could be regulated via a permit process or rule change but, for now, park users are reminded that driving on the beach or through the dunes is illegal,” said Cottrell. “To address this issue, DSP is working towards designating certain beach areas at Polihale for restricted transiting, parking and boat launching.”

Implementing any significant new management measures is a challenge during the COVID-19 pandemic, he said. State budget woes and hiring freezes have prompted DLNR to encourage kokua from the Kaua‘i community.

“We’re trying to determine how much people really care about Polihale’s natural and cultural resources. Reopening with new guidelines is an opportunity to see,” said Cottrell.

  1. coconut girl September 13, 2020 12:49 am Reply

    no more beach racetrack …

  2. Hay Lee September 13, 2020 7:23 am Reply

    So with the new rules , I guess locals aren’t allowed. That looks more like a Polihale “ to do list”. How the Bruddahs gon have fun without drunk drag racing the beach all night? Guess maybe more fireworks or sound systems? Few more hippies can poop on the trail. How about some accountability people. Poli got closed by everyone acting like knuckleheads. I assume everyone has seen the folly of their ways and accordingly changed their behavior.

    1. RJ September 13, 2020 11:17 am Reply

      Wrong. Polihale got closed because a large group of people acting like knuckleheads, not “everyone”. Some of us respectful people—locals and non-locals—drive slow enough to watch for keiki, take all our trash out, and overall respect Polihale enough to leave it better than how we found it.
      I do agree there needs to be accountability, but you assuming people have seen their folly and changed their ways?? Also WRONG. There will always be those who drive fast, drink irresponsibly, leave opala, and act dumb around such a sacred place. Personally I think they should allow Polihale to keep resting and recuperating until they come up with an actual plan of ENFORCEMENT.

  3. Grownup September 13, 2020 9:49 am Reply

    Some people are just selfish, and only care about the moment and not about the future and safety of others, and then they wonder why the park closed?
    “GROW UP”

  4. Kahl September 13, 2020 11:24 am Reply

    Ignoring bigoted perspectives of opposing sides, appropriately investigating the issues would be a good place to start. There has been little mention or responsibility of “bad behavior” resulting from Inter-island tourists. Ishihara had convoys of Rental Jeeps heading Polihale that weekend of “1,000” and DLNR was MIA.

  5. Doug September 13, 2020 1:21 pm Reply

    Hope they will be replacing and adding metal toilets instead of the porcelain toilets again, otherwise they will just be wasting money……..

  6. Da Shadow September 13, 2020 2:38 pm Reply

    Tourists are to blame for this. Obviously.
    Ban them all, appease the North Shore Militia.

  7. Kauai is Why September 13, 2020 6:49 pm Reply

    1. Haena Beach Park (closed to camping)
    2. Black Pot (closed to camping)
    3. Anini open (homeless camp)
    4. Lydgate open but huge homeless camp just down the way.
    5. Hanamaulu (closed to camping)
    6. Salt Pond (homeless camp)
    7. Lucy Wright( homeless camp)
    8. Polihale State Park. (Closed )
    Kauai is why

  8. tunataxi September 14, 2020 7:25 am Reply

    Well over 30 years me… my friends and hundreds of other people I donʻt know have been camping and driving the beach at Polihale. Iʻve taken plenty of trash home with me that I didnʻt take to the beach. Never once raced down the beach or destroyed a pavilion or restroom. For the state to block access and ruin things for those of us who are respectful of the area is beyond ridiculous. Itʻs time to put a ranger out there. Lifeguards and people empowered to control the fools. Anyone caught breaking the rules gets a lifetime ban.

  9. Kauaidoug September 14, 2020 7:56 am Reply

    Speed bumps? On Polihale road? The irony of it all.. OMG. Seems like one DLNR officer with a drone could check the whole beach and take pictures of anything anywhere. No campfires? Another example of locals behaving badly. Can’t blame the tourist.

  10. Joe Public September 14, 2020 11:06 am Reply

    The lack of DLNR response/presence at State Parks have lead to all State Parks being ransacked. They have gone through a few “Chiefs” here on Kauai, and they all rather do nothing, then try to lead and do their jobs.

    DLNR is a joke.

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