State officials cited 18 people Saturday night for violating closure hours at Kaena Point State Park on Oahu.
The Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources had warned the public it would strictly enforce closure hours between 7 p.m. and 6 a.m. nightly to protect sensitive species and habitats from illegal activity.
All vehicles still need to be out of the park by 7 p.m., except for valid permit holders.
Officers from the DLNR Division of Conservation and Resources Enforcement also cited five others for not having special access permits, and one man for a protected species violation after finding he had speared an under-sized kala.
DLNR said besides a large, digital sign posted at the Mokuleia park entrance, officers alerted people on the beach and roads of the upcoming closure an hour prior to 7 p.m. Saturday.
Court appearances for all 24 cited are scheduled in the next month, DLNR said.
Officials were also concerned about the harassment of endangered monk seals that frequent the park’s beaches.
One couple that tried to cross over to a resting mom and her pup was shooed away, DLNR said, and a man with a dog was also turned away. Dogs are not allowed anywhere in the park at any time.
In addition to threats to protected species such as Hawaiian monk seals, officials said many other activities are damaging to the park — including illegal bonfires that leave large nails in the sand, off-road vehicles that destroy vegetation and create new erosion paths, and large parties that leave litter behind.
“Kaena Point State Park, both the Mokuleia and the Keawaula/Makua sections, represent truly the last, large, and wild coastal environment on Oahu,” said Curt Cottrell, DLNR Division of State Parks administrator, in a news release. “It is a valued resource for people to enjoy, but equally significant it is a sanctuary for native birds and mammals who need additional protection when so many people are visiting, like we’re seeing this weekend.”
Cottrell said this weekend’s enforcement is a pilot project exploring the state’s capacity to enforce hours and behaviors of the park on a permanent basis.
“We’ll engage the local community and stakeholders as these actions are evaluated and future plans are formulated,” he said.