Polihale State Park on the west end of Kauaʻi is expecting a boost in resources and staffing to help the state take a more hands-on approach to the management of this popular beach park.
Until last month, the park had been closed to campers for over two years because of concerns that uncontrolled use of the park was threatening the area’s ancient burials and endangered species.
Illegal activity at Polihale State Park has not entirely gone away, says Alan Carpenter, assistant Administrator of the State Parks Division, but behavior has improved.
“Definitely better than in the past. When we reopened, we blocked off critical areas of the dunes with large boulders to keep trucks from driving into the most sensitive areas that contain endangered species and burials,” Carpenter said. “We flooded the park with signage, which was, in fact, something that if you don’t tell people what the rules are, how can they abide by them?”
Carpenter says the state’s hands-off management style over the years has allowed harmful behaviors to develop at Polihale, including vehicles driving on the beach and dunes.
He says public outreach is underway to help educate folks about Polihale’s storied cultural landscape.
“You have incredibly important cultural sites. Polihale Heiau, which is not in the park, is one of these leina or leaping off places for the soul. There are buried resources. This whole area used to be a vast network of ponds that served as fishponds, ways to travel by canoe through villages,” Carpenter said. “I mean there’s so much history there. We just need to remember that just because you can’t see it, doesn’t mean it’s not there.”
Carpenter says public education at Polihale will get a boost from the two new ranger positions planned for the west side of Kauaʻi. Legislative funding has also been set aside for future park improvements and planning.
“We have begun a public outreach and planning effort to conceive, along with the community, a better future management plan for this park,” he said. “We’ve got a survey out there and we’re getting really good responses to find out what people know about Polihale, how they use Polihale, what they believe the future of Polihale should be.”
Public meetings on Kauaʻi are also being planned to gather more input. The public has until Sept. 30 to participate in the Polihale Survey, which is available on the State Parks website.