When Hawaii Kai resident Lisa Westly checked the Na Ala Hele hiking trails website of the state Department of Land and Natural Resources’ Division of Forestry and Wildlife on Thursday, she was happy to see the Hawaii Loa Ridge trail, a nearby favorite, was open, despite the closure of several city and state parks to counter the coronavirus’ spread.
Since Mayor Kirk Caldwell’s March 23 stay-at-home order, Westly, 52, and her husband, Chip Westly, 64, found their children Sophia, 12, and Ben, 7, needed more outlets for their energy now that schools were closed.
But when they drove up to the guardhouse at the entrance to the Hawaii Loa gated community, which contains the trailhead, they were told the trail was closed.
“So we turned around and drove to the top of Waialae Nui, made it through the guard station (in that gated community) without incident and enjoyed a lovely hike on the Wiliwili Ridge trail,” Westly said.
She added she hoped DLNR would clear up the discrepancy regarding the Hawaii Loa trail.
“If the website says it’s open, it should be open, and if not, they need to let people know.”
DLNR spokesman AJ McWhorter confirmed the trail was open but noted its entrance lies within the homeowners association’s private park, now closed.
“We are working on restoring public access, parking or at least trailhead drop-off,” McWhorter said Monday in an email.
The reason the park and trailhead parking lot were closed was concern about coronavirus exposure, said Luella Sufrin, administrative assistant in the community association management office.
“We have a lot of elderly residents who walk the park for exercise, so they closed the park,” Sufrin said Monday in a phone interview.
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, people age 65 and older are at higher risk for severe illness from COVID-19.
“(People) can access the hiking trail through Waialae Iki and through Kuliouou (currently open trails),” Sufrin said.
On Sunday the Westly family hiked the Kuliouou trail.
“It wasn’t difficult to put social distancing in place,” Westly said. “Honestly, there really aren’t that many people out.”
The family encountered “a handful” of other hikers on the Kuliouou trail “and “maybe four” on the Wiliwili trail, she said, noting the trails are mostly wide enough that “when we have encountered people, being 6 feet apart is not an issue at all.”
At places where the trail narrowed, the Westlys and their dog “went off to the side and waited for others to pass,” Westly added.
“I realize that we’re in the midst of the pandemic, but with two small children cooped up in the house,” she was grateful “to get them outdoors to hike in nature and think about different things,” she said.
McWhorter urged hikers to visit the trails website and click on the links to specific trails.
“Each trail has a notice if it’s impacted by the closure of a state, county or other park,” he said. “The trails themselves aren’t closed, but their access may be.”
For more information, go to hawaiitrails.hawaii.gov/trails/#.