POLIHALE — Last Friday, admission into Polihale State Park reopened after nearly five months of closure.
When the park was shut down in July, the state’s Department of Land and Natural Resources Division of State Parks blamed overuse and abuse of the beach and camping area citing a weekend where over 1,000 people camped illegally.
“There were many discussions about future management of the park,” Rep. Dee Morikawa, House Majority Floor Leader, said Monday. “The community seems to want some kind of management plan similar to Ha‘ena, but geared to westside usage.”
Morikawa will be proposing a vehicle access fee to control the number of cars allowed in to the area at the next legislative session beginning in January.
“I want to address the driving on the beach, because it is illegal to do so now. However, in Kekaha and Polihale, the large expanse of sand beaches makes it hazardous to impossible to walk to surfing or fishing spots.”
New signage displayed at the park spell out several rules, like no pets except service animals, no open fires or alcohol, no driving on sand dunes, and to use the restrooms, not the bushes.
“Respect this park or it will be closed,” the sign states.
The last press release issued by DLNR was in September, suggesting the park would be reopened in a few weeks, possibly before Labor Day.
One idea for enforcement was a stewardship agreement. Thirty speedbumps have been installed to discourage speeding and damage to the entry road. Long-term measures include capital improvement programs to protect the dunes, enhance access, parking and camping areas.
“There were management and enforcement problems that needed to be addressed, as well as, mitigating concerns raised by the lineal and cultural descendant families who have burials in the area,” Morikawa said. “Signage and revisions of rules needed to be made and only recently were the signs completed and installed.”
The park is only open for day use, between 5:30 a.m. to 7:45 p.m.
It’s not known when camping will open, Morikawa said. But, when it does, camping permits will be issued in the future at $20 per campsite for residents and $30 for non-residents.
“We all must take responsibility for our natural resources,” Morikawa said. “Our use will be dependent on how we care for the land.”
And that’s not just on the shoulders of enforcers, Morikawa said.
“We cannot depend solely on law enforcement, and we really don’t want them constantly on our backs watching every move we make, so we need to follow the rules and lead by example,” she said.
DLNR did not respond to request for comment.