comscore Large gatherings, trucks driving over Hawaiian burial sites, widespread defecation force closure of Polihale State Park on Kauai | Honolulu Star-Advertiser
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Large gatherings, trucks driving over Hawaiian burial sites, widespread defecation force closure of Polihale State Park on Kauai

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The Department of Land and Natural Resources announced it will close Kauai’s Polihale State Park indefinitely, citing bad behavior of residents, with abuse, illegal gatherings and camping.

DLNR also says it is “cash-strapped,” hurting from lack of visitors due to the pandemic, and unable to deal with the illegal activity in many of the state parks.

On a recent weekend more than 1,000 people camped at Polihale on Kauai’s west side, with only 80 legal permits, and several hundred parked trucks spanning the 2-mile long beach, DLNR said in a news release issued Tuesday.

State Parks Administrator Curt Cottrell said the decision was made on input from staff, law enforcement, health officials and west Kauai residents.

DLNR says Polihale’s large size and isolated location make it difficult to enforce the rules, and “COVID-19 has exacerbated all those issues, and public health and safety concerns, contributed to the decision to close the park.”

It also cites truck racing on the beach, driving through dunes containing Hawaiian burial sites and critically endangered plants; overuse with widespread defecation within the fragile dune system; and lack of social distancing.

DLNR blames recent vandalism, theft, graffiti, and bad behavior on residents.

The agency points out it is “cash-strapped.”

Its Division of State Parks has been struck at various parks including:

Vandalism and theft at Akaka Falls State Park. Its pump house was broken into, with photovoltaic panels, a controller box and batteries stolen, resulting in $37,700 in replacement and repair costs.

Nighttime weekend illegal behavior at Ka‘ena Point State Park with drinking, littering, beach bonfires, burning of rubber tires and large numbers of illegal campers.

Nearly all park restroom fixtures at Aiea Bay State Park on O‘ahu were destroyed by vandals, with an estimated replacement and repair bill of $25,000.

And illegal beach access and illegal camping in West Side Hawaiʻi Island parks. They affect Hawaiian monk seals at Kiholo State Park Reserve and Kekaha Kai State Park.

“People need to understand that with the loss of revenue from the visitor industry, we will be facing some very tough decisions about our funding,” Cottrell warns. “This is likely to mean not only a reduction in services like routine maintenance but could ultimately result in the closure of some parks.”

The Division of State Parks relies on appropriations from the Legislature, income from entrance, parking, camping, lodging and concession fees — mostly from visitors, and a small portion of the State’s Transient Accommodations Tax (TAT) for funding.

“TAT collections and distributions have been suspended due to the COVID-19 and subsequent State fiscal crisis,” DLNR said.

Anyone who sees suspicious or illegal activity in a state park is asked to call 643-DLNR (3567), or download the free DLNRTip app, which allows real-time reporting and photograph submittals.

Correction: Photos that accompanied an earlier version of this story showed activity and damage at various state parks across Hawaii, but not ay Polihale State Park on Kauai.
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