Thursday is Kuhio Day, a state holiday on which Hawaii residents traditionally flock to enjoy the advent of spring on hikes and at the beach.
But this year, with all city parks, virtually all state parks and many state hiking trails closed in the attempt to slow the spread of the dangerous new coronavirus, there likely will be more people seeking outdoor recreation in fewer open places.
And not surprisingly, there’s confusion as to what’s open and what’s closed.
For instance, despite the announcement that all City and County of Honolulu parks closed Thursday, Yelp, TripAdvisor and other online sites failed to update information for such highly promoted hikes as the Koko Crater Railway Trail at the city’s Koko Head District Park. Anika Keuning discovered that when she went there to hike on Monday.
“We drove out, and there was a sign saying it was closed, so we left,” said Keuning, an undergraduate at Cornell University who returned home to Honolulu indefinitely when her college shut its doors and instituted remote learning.
“Now with the whole lockdown thing, I’m a little confused about what’s allowed and what’s not,” Keuning added as she and a friend walked near Diamond Head.
By Tuesday afternoon the gate at the Koko Crater trailhead was locked, and additional park closure signs had been posted, said Nate Serota, public information officer for the city Department of Parks and Recreation, adding that DPR staff and HPD officers were educating would-be hikers in person.
“In particular, the Koko Head tramway has limited opportunity to maintain social distancing of at least six feet of space between individuals,” Serota said in an email. At about 3:30 p.m. the steep railroad trail up the crater’s side was empty except for two people, visible in the distance, making the climb.
A few miles east, however, a motley stream of hikers bypassed the closure sign at the entrance to the wildly popular Makapuu Point Lighthouse Trail, part of the state’s also-closed Kaiwi State Scenic Shoreline stretching from Makapuu to Maunalua Bay.
“Unfortunately,” Curt Cottrell, state parks administrator, said in a statement Friday announcing the state parks closure, “many, many people are simply ignoring gates and signs and choosing to put themselves and any others close-by at risk of contracting COVID-19.”
Since then DLNR has been tracking popular locations where people continue to ignore closures, said DLNR communications specialist AJ McWhorter in an email, “and Division of Conservation and Resources Enforcement (DOCARE) officers are patrolling closed state parks and other shuttered DLNR facilities.”
At Diamond Head State Monument on Tuesday, a state sheriff guarded the tunnel entrance to the crater, warning off people seeking to access the closed trails. The outer slopes and crater rim of Diamond Head are also closed, a DLNR announcement said.
“The penalty for violating a state park closure is a petty misdemeanor, with up to a $500 fine or 30 days imprisonment or both,” McWhorter said, noting, “Due to the current state of emergency, there are enhanced penalties that can be levied.”
There was sweet news for hikers, however. Most of the DLNR Division of Forestry and Wildlife’s network of Na Ala Hele hiking trails remains open for the time being, including such scenic treks as the Hauula Loop, Kuliouou Ridge, Manoa Cliff, Maunawili, Mokuleia and Tantalus Arboretum trails.
Among the Na Ala Hele hikes, only the Manoa Falls, Aihualanma, Koloualu, Poamoho and Poamoho Hele Loa Access trails are closed.
To clear up one more possible point of confusion: While the city previously announced the closure of restrooms in city parks, restrooms will be open starting today, but the parks themselves will remain closed, Serota said.
The public will be able to traverse city parks to access the ocean or to get from one point in a neighborhood to another, but stopping within a city park — apart from a restroom pit stop — will remain forbidden, according to a staffer on DPR’s information hotline, 768-CITY.
PUBLIC PARKS, HIKING TRAILS
>> All city parks are closed. *Note: Park bathrooms are being reopened today, but all other facilities remain closed; the public may traverse a park to reach a destination outside the park but may not stay within the park.
>> The Koko Crater Railway Trail in the city’s Koko Head District Park is closed.
>> The Makapuu Lighthouse Trail in the state parks system is closed, as is the entire Kaiwi State Scenic Shoreline it is part of.
>> The Diamond Head State Monument trail is closed, and access to Diamond Head Crater is closed to the public and open only to essential personnel.
>> The Manoa Falls, Aihualama, Poamoho, Poamoho and Poamoho Hele Loa Access trails in the state DLNR’s Division of Forestry and Wildlife Na Ala Hele trail system system are closed.
>> Virtually all Hawaii state parks are fully or partially closed; all facilities are closed and tours are canceled. For more information, go to dlnr.hawaii.gov/dsp.
>> All other state hiking trails in the state’s Na Ala Hele trail system currently remain open. For a list of these state hiking trails, go to hawaiitrails.hawaii.gov/trails/#.