No guarantee Kalalau rid of illegal campers

Over 1,000 marijuana plants removed from valley

LIHU‘E — Nobody should have been in Kalalau Valley except those people working on the rock-mitigation work and state resources-enforcement officers, but there is no guarantee some people did not elude enforcement officers and slip further up the valley.

That is the word from Francis “Bully” Mission, Kaua‘i branch chief of the state Department of Land and Natural Resources Division of Conservation and Resources Enforcement.

Mission, a former Kaua‘i Police Department officer, said despite DOCARE overnight camping and stepped-up enforcement efforts to rid Kalalau Valley of un-permitted campers, “it is unknown if one or two illegal campers ran in the deeper portion of the valley and don’t want to be found.”

In an exclusive interview, Mission talked about the daunting task of sweeping the valley even when it was technically closed to all campers while the maintenance work happened, from Sept. 7 to Oct. 31.

“The sweeps have definitely removed a majority of the illegal or un-permitted campers from within the valley. The land mass that we (DOCARE) deal with, in my perspective, from the air (helicopter), Kalalau Valley seems not too big, but once you get on the ground it’s huge.

“The officers need to travel through thick brush and mountainous areas to get to some of the campsites and illegal campers,” said Mission.

“Prior to the closure and during the closure, DOCARE conducted enforcement sweeps to remove illegal campers, and had done periodic campouts to conduct enforcement within the valley. During this period persons were contacted by DOCARE officers, checked for valid permits and issued citations if they could not produce a valid permit,” he said.

“There was also a joint operation, which included the assistance of outer island DOCARE officers, Kaua‘i Police Department, and the Kaua‘i sheriffs (state Department of Public Safety Sheriff Division) to locate and arrest illegal campers.

“During the closure period we received information that one male and two female subjects were seen in the park, no other persons. Enforcement efforts were initiated to locate the mentioned persons,” said Mission.

Pakalolo pulled

Over 1,000 marijuana plants were removed through enforcement sweeps and Green Harvest operations before and while the popular wilderness park was closed, he said.

Increases in revenue from camping fees will be used in part to provide more-intense enforcement and management of Kalalau, he said.

“The long-term goals of DLNR, after this initial management blitz, is to increase the frequency of both management and enforcement activities in Kalalau. Unlike other state parks in Hawai‘i where improvement and maintenance activities are related to restrooms, parking areas and trimming pathways, Kalalau maintenance also includes the citing and removal of illegal campers and squatters,” he said.

“This will improve the quality of the experience for both locals and visitors who visit Kalalau, and drastically decrease impact (of illegal campers on the experiences of legal campers). The goal now is to maintain this inter-divisional management collaboration with (the DLNR Division of) State Parks supporting our enforcement efforts of more-frequent inspections of permits, and to cite violators,” said Mission.

All of the rock-mitigation work was not able to be accomplished in the two-month time frame from Sept. 7 to Oct. 31, as it ended up being much more involved than anticipated, said Deborah Ward, DLNR spokeswoman.

Rockfall work remains

The work will get done, likely before the 2011 peak summer season, she said.

The DLNR on Nov. 1 reopened for hiking and camping activities the Napali Coast State Wilderness Park and Kalalau hiking trail.

Earlier, DLNR officials said the legal campsites were sold out for Nov. 1 well in advance of the reopening.

“We have successfully completed an unprecedented, eight-week, multi-part project to address a mix of public-safety and natural- and cultural-resource-management issues at the Napali Coast State Wilderness Park, one of the most popular wilderness camping areas in the world,” said Laura H. Thielen, DLNR chairperson, in a press release.

“This area was in danger of being loved to death and it was time for a thorough ‘makeover.’”

The project included a rockfall-mitigation project around and above Ho‘ole‘a Falls and shoreline sea-cave areas at Kalalau Beach, removal of illegal campsites and rubbish, public hunting of feral pigs and goats, and park improvements.

“This was a multi-divisional approach to management of a park that contains both high-quality natural and cultural resources, nestled in a remote location that presents challenges to sustained management,” she said.

“We also want to acknowledge the support and contributions of the community members who have given of their time and effort to help manage and rejuvenate this treasured resource so it remains safe, beautiful and enjoyable for years to come,” said Thielen.

Over the span of closure up to 20 volunteers have been involved with support in both Hanakoa and Kalalau, the release states.

For more information go to www.hawaiistateparks.org or contact the Division of State Parks, 274-3444.

No guarantee Kalalau rid of illegal campers

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