Select Hawaii state parks have been reopened for active hiking and beach exercise during daylight hours, subject to restrictions and continued requirements that visitors respect social distancing, stay in motion and avoid gatherings “of any sort,” the state Division of State Parks announced Wednesday.
For instance, while the crater and interior hikes to the summit overlooks of Diamond Head State Monument remain closed, the Fort Ruger Pathway along the lower exterior slopes has reopened to exercisers; the Kaiwi State Scenic Shoreline is also open, except for its lookouts.
The announcement included reassuring new advice from the Hawai‘i Department of Health that exercisers don’t have to feel doomed to certain contagion if passers-by come briefly closer than the recommended 6-foot buffer zone.
“The fact that these are outdoor/open air spaces with good ventilation means any risk of transmission will be greatly decreased,”said state Epidemiologist Sarah Park, noting that “trails that may not be wide enough at some points to accommodate (6-foot) distance, so it will be important to remind people to keep moving and not congregate.”
Park added, “As long as people are moving past each other, even if they’re within (6 feet) of each other and not wearing a mask, we wouldn’t categorize those persons as anything but low risk at most and likely no risk.”
Suzanne Case, director of the Department of Land and Natural Resources, underscored that the parks were reopening “strictly for mobile activities such as hiking and ocean use “in order “to support our residents’ physical and emotional health (during) this unprecedented time of virtually no out-of-state visitors.”
Outside of mobile exercising, other traditional park activities, notably social uses “such as parties, picnics, gatherings, setting up on the beach and camping are still not allowed during the stay-at-home mandate,” Case said.
For that reason, she said, certain popular parks, such as Heeia State Park and Laie Point and Nuuanu Pali State Waysides, remain closed.
“Where social distancing isn’t possible, at lookouts and certain trails, we’re keeping those kinds of areas closed,” Case added during an appearance at Gov. David Ige’s Wednesday press briefing.
All beaches remain closed, Case said at the briefing, and may be used only to access the ocean and for active exercise sessions on the sand.
Residents were urged to think local, staying “within their own ahupuaa and neighborhoods rather than traveling across an island to another community’s park,” Curt Cottrell, state parks administrator, said in the release.
Cottrell said parks may be closed again if people behave inappropriately or public health circumstances change.
In an addition release Wednesday, Case reminded park users to keep their distance, keep dogs on leashes and otherwise avoid disturbing wildlife they might see, in particular endangered Hawaiian monk seals, who are in the middle of their pupping season, as well as green sea turtles, many of which have gotten used to not seeing humans when parks were closed during the past six weeks.
State biologists recommended that people give beached seals an “extra-wide berth, both for the protection of the pup and for human safety around protective mother seals.”
Citing multiple reports of off-leash dogs around monk seals over the past few days, the state warned violations carry $2,000-plus fines.
Newly reopened Oahu state parks where marine wildlife seek rest on beaches include Malaekahana State Recreation Area and Kaena Point State Park (open strictly for hiking and beach exercise on the Mokuleia section and beach exercise and water use on the Makua and Keawa‘ula sections).
Among the neighbor islands, Kauai’s Kalalau Trail beyond Hanakapiai Valley remains closed, while Haena State Park and select trails in Kokee and Waimea Canyon state parks are open; on Maui, Iao Valley State Monument is closed, while Makena State Park, except for its Little Beach section, is open; and on the Big Island, Akaka Falls and Wailuku River state parks are closed, while MacKenzie and Hapuna Beach (except for its Waialea Beach section) state recreation areas are open.
For the full list of open and closed state parks throughout the islands, visit dlnr.hawaii.gov; to report situations involving wildlife, call the NOAA Statewide Marine Animal Hotline at (888) 256-9840.