Editorial | Island Voices DLNR committed to safe access to recreational lands By William J. Aila Jr. Dec. 19, 2014 Mahalo for supporting Honolulu Star-Advertiser. Enjoy this free story! Read more Mahalo for reading the Honolulu Star-Advertiser! You're reading a premium story. Read the full story with our Print & Digital Subscription. Subscribe Now Read this story for free: Watch an ad or complete a survey Log In Already a subscriber? Log in now to continue reading this story. Activate Digital Account Print subscriber but without online access? Activate your Digital Account now. On Dec. 12, the Hawaii Board of Land and Natural Resources approved a month-to-month revocable permit to allow rock climbing at the basalt wall known as Mokuleia Wall on Oahu’s North Shore. Climbing enthusiasts had advocated for the reopening of the wall for 21⁄2 years. The nonprofit Hawaii Climbing Coalition worked hand in hand with the Office of the Attorney General and staff from the Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR), Division of State Parks, to forge a trial access agreement, by which the coalition will help ensure climbers meet established certification and safety standards set by an international climbing federation. We welcome this agreement as a great example of recreational constituents applying their unique and specialized skills, working with government to achieve consensus for their chosen outdoor activities. This is in sharp contrast to the actions of another small group of climbers who are waterfall rappelling in off-limits areas. Recent news reports highlight climbers ascending and descending waterfalls in Sacred Falls State Park, which was closed as a result of a 1999 Mother’s Day rockslide that left eight people dead and dozens of others seriously hurt. Anyone who enters Sacred Falls State Park is breaking the law and could face major fines and significant jail time. It is permanently closed to public access due to the constant uncertainty and extreme exposure to potentially fatal rock fall. It is also a culturally sensitive area. It doesn’t matter whether entrance is via "a light stroll through the woods," as one article described, or from elsewhere. Dozens of signs on the edge of the park and inside it warn of the closure, falling rocks, flash floods and other hazards. Nearly every day, officers from the DLNR Division of Conservation and Resources Enforcement cite hikers trespassing at Sacred Falls. These folks are often encour-aged by social media, websites and general news media to go ahead and take their chances for a quintessential Hawaii experience. One advocate of waterfall rappelling is quoted as saying, "The first time I did Sacred Falls, we had to spend the night in the canyon because we couldn’t finish it, which was super scary because rocks were falling all night." This is precisely the reason Sacred Falls State Park is closed. Each time emergency workers are called to Sacred Falls to conduct a rescue — or worse, a body retrieval — they put their own lives at risk. These are public servants who have friends and family. Though proponents of extreme activities on public lands may claim that they assume all the risk, history has shown that when people are killed or injured on public property, Hawaii taxpayers end up footing the bill for multimillion-dollar judgments and settlements. DLNR, the state agency that manages millions of acres of parks, forests, nearshore ocean waters and countless recreational lands and facilities, wants people to explore and enjoy the great outdoors. We want them to do it safely on land managed and promoted for recreational access, while being mindful of any risks to themselves and others. We look forward to working with individuals and groups like the Hawaii Climbing Coalition to create opportunities that minimize risks, avoid negative impacts to public trust and cultural resources, and ensure that taxpayers do not pay the price when those who voluntarily engage in high risk, illegal activity are injured or killed. Previous Story OHA's challenge to open-meetings ruling lacks merit Next Story 'O Mariota ka 'oi, 'a'ohe mea nāna e pa'i kona po'