Tourists stopped from entering Kauai state park by human chain
Protestors formed a human chain to block approximately 50 tourists from entering Haena State Park on the island of Kauai in Hawaii at around 5 am this morning. The island residents did, however, let residents and construction workers through the highway.
The protestors blocked Kuhio Highway that leads to the popular park. Police arrived at around 7 am and forced the 20 or so protestors to reopen the road. They moved out of the way and were not arrested but remained to continue their message that the area is not ready to receive visitors.
Haena State Park offers viewing of restored taro fields and ancient sea caves, as well as the Napali Coast State Wilderness Park which offers beach-related activities including shore fishing and swimming at Kee Beach. Haena is also home to the trailhead of the world famous Kalalau Trail and Hanakapia Falls trail.
The State of Hawaii Division of State Parks scheduled the reopening of Haena State Park and Napali Coast State Wilderness Park today to coincide with the opening of Kuhio Highway. Both parks have been closed since April 2018 following severe flooding on the north shore of Kauai.
Some residents have not been looking forward to the state restoring access to the area, fearing a surge of tourists to a region that has been challenged to support the residents’ own needs. The combined population of Kauai’s isolated north shore communities was only 749 according to the last census that took place in 2010. In comparison, close to 1.38 million tourists visited Kauai of which it is estimated that 730,000 visited Haena State Park.
Due to the popularity of the area, the state issued new tourism management guidelines which limits visitation to 900 people a day from an estimated 3,000 daily before the flooding occurred.
Residents still complain that tourists are driving too fast, hogging one-lane bridges, parking illegally, walking on reefs, and spraying themselves with reef-harming sunscreen. Wainiha resident Kaiulani Mahuka said the reopening is taking place while construction bridgework is still ongoing, put residents, visitors, and the district’s natural resources in jeopardy. She said the return of tourism and the reopening of vacation rentals has also displaced residents in the community, citing that 5 people received notices yesterday to vacate.
Another protestor, Kaimi Hermosura-Konohiki, said residents, many who are still recovering from the flood, are upset because so far most of the recovery resources have gone into readying the district to receive tourists instead of taking care of those who live there first.