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.