The state is preparing to close a section of Kauai’s scenic Na Pali Coast State Park to remove dangerous rocks and clean up illegal camp sites in Kalalau Valley.
Nine miles of trail from Hanakapiai to Honopu will close from Sept. 7 to Oct. 31 while contractors scale loose rocks from cliff faces near the Hoolea waterfall and sea cave at Kalalau Beach, said Dan Quinn, administrator of the State Parks Division, part of the Department of Land and Natural Resources.
During the closure, the state will also reduce the feral pig and goat populations and repair trails.
While the park is closed periodically for maintenance and hunting, the upcoming project is the most extensive since Hurricane Iniki battered Kauai in 1992.
The first two miles of the trail to Hanakapiai will remain open to hikers, as will the western end of the park. Areas at Nualolo Kai and Milolii accessible by boat will not be affected.
The state conducted a rockfall mitigation study of the area after a rock the size of a basketball punctured an unoccupied tent near the waterfall in June 2007. It was determined that the areas around the Hoolea waterfall and above the sea cave at Kalalau Beach posed imminent hazards.
Though campers are warned to stay away from the site, officials recognize that people continue to venture there, especially during the summer. Rocks ranging in size from marbles to boulders can fall due to erosion, a process exacerbated by goats that eat vegetation on the cliffs, said state parks archaeologist Alan Carpenter.
Officials had posted signs warning hikers to stay away from the site, but the signs are routinely ignored or even removed by campers.
"That continues to be a challenge for us," said Development Branch Chief Russell Kumabe.
The rock and loose-soil removal will cost $800,000.
Contractors of AIS Construction will conduct helicopter sling load operations to haul away the rocky material to the foot of the mountain. Heavy-duty synthetic material will be laid across the beach to catch the rocks and protect a nearby stream while scaling work is being done.
ILLEGAL CAMPSITES, a chronic problem, have grown worse, said Quinn.
Heaps of trash accumulate in the park from squatters.
"It’s been a mess for far too long," said Carpenter.
Even worse, illegal campers are removing rocks from centuries-old native Hawaiian sacred sites.
"In the most egregious instances, some take up residence in heiau (temple) sites, digging up the ground to create gardens and rearranging the stonework for cooking fires and dwellings," said Carpenter. "Uncontrolled planting of a myriad of non-native food plants is damaging both the archaeological deposits and displacing native flora.
"It’s so disheartening to see the abuse from illegal campers."
Conservation enforcement officers issued 23 citations in June in Na Pali State Park and 27 citations from July to Friday. Twenty-nine citations were issued during a sweep in February.
An estimated $70,000 will go toward the cleanup and enforcement as well as feral animal control and trail restoration. Work will be done by staff within the Department of Land and Natural Resources with the exception of the feral animal control, which will be done by hunters.