HANAPEPE — Cars were turned away Tuesday in front of the Hanapepe Veterans Cemetery as the houseless of Salt Pond Beach Park and adjoining areas were evicted.
The park closed last Wednesday, June 30, signaling the end of the county’s Shelter-In-Place program that allowed the houseless community to live on county-owned beach properties throughout the coronavirus pandemic and have access to running water and electricity.
However, many residents, with nowhere else to go, stayed at the site.
A Kaua‘i Police Department convoy, as well as other county departments and various agencies including the state Department of Land and Natural Resources and Sheriff’s Office, made its way to Salt Pond around 6 a.m. Tuesday.
“Multiple agencies responded this morning to assist illegal campers in vacating the area so that the county can conduct maintenance, repairs and restore the area,” Assistant Chief Mark Begley said in a statement. “Most of the illegal campers have been cooperative.”
KPD reported two arrests Tuesday afternoon, for “refusing to comply with multiple requests to vacate the area,” a KPD spokesperson said. A notice of violation states that illegal camping will result in fines of $100 per person per night, the use of illegal structures in a fine of $500, and abandonment of property another $500.
“Please note that the campers had at least two months of warnings prior to today, and they were also offered multiple opportunities for available assistance,” the spokesperson continued.
Allen Lee Jr. reported that campers were given verbal notice and then told they needed to leave the area.
“Now we’re back to the same position,” Lee said.”Where do we go without being arrested or harassed? How can we get out of being homeless if we have to keep buying all our stuff back?”
The Salt Pond area includes state, county, federal and private owners, including DLNR, U.S. Coast Guard, Gay &Robinson and the state Department of Transportation Airports Division.
“There are several properties in the Salt Pond area of Kaua‘i that have become targets for dumping and squatters,” DLNR spokesperson Dan Dennison said in an email. Kaua‘i DLNR Division of Conservation and Resources Enforcement personnel concentrated on its designated lands, Dennison said.
Dennison reported two petty-misdemeanor citations for being in a closed area and no arrests as of Tuesday afternoon on these state lands. Notices to vacate the area by June 30 were put up on June 15.
Salt Pond is anticipated to reopen toward the end of July, and will reopen for day use only on Saturday, July 10.
When the park reopens to camping, it will only be for recreational use, according to the county.
Tuesday, truckloads pulled out items left behind at the site, as well as picnic tables.
Later in the day, residents of Salt Pond, Tess Schleihs said, continued to wait on word on where to go and where their personal items are going.
Last week, on the date of the Salt Pond closure, Schleihs noted the difference between “homeless” and “houseless.” Over time, she realized that those who are “houseless” lack that, a house.
“I used to think they were one of the same,” Schleihs said. But the community at Salt Pond, she said, became a home, as well as a community. The closure of the park signified becoming homeless, she said.
Sabrina Bodon, public safety and government reporter, can be reached at 245-0441 or email@example.com.