Friday | July 21, 2017
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Waimea trail draws hikers despite recent citations

WAIMEA — About a week after officers from the state Department of Land and Natural Resources issued dozens of trespassing citations, the route known as the White Road Trail continues to draw hikers looking for a day outdoors.

Noah De La Cruz, 19, and Ani Case, 18, were mulling over the idea of hiking the trail while they were parked Saturday morning along the road hikers often take to access the trail, which leads to an overlook and flume.

“I’ve always lived in Waimea and I never got a chance to do it,” said Case. “So he wanted to show me.”

De La Cruz, also of Waimea, said he’s hiked the trail about three times.

“Never been cited though before,” he said.

Several steps to take

The first gate hikers would need to cross marks the beginning of property leased by the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands. At that gate are signs reading “Kapu” and “Keep out.”

“Crossing that property is trespassing without landowner permission,” DLNR spokeswoman Deborah Ward said.

Beyond that is a second gate belonging to the Department of Land and Natural Resources and marks the boundary of the Kohala Restricted Watershed, part of the Kohala Forest Reserve. Restricted watersheds, Ward noted, are sources of drinking water.

“The only legal access to the restricted watershed (and trail) is by permit from Division of Forestry and Wildlife, which would require proof of permission of the adjacent landowner, which is DHHL,” Ward told West Hawaii Today.

Ward also noted the dangers of hiking the trail, citing damage done by the 2006 Kiholo Bay earthquake. That earthquake resulted in the closure of the trail past a Waipio lookout.

“The trail is slippery when wet and the drop if you fall is hundreds of feet,” she said.

DOCARE’s North Hawaii supervisor in a press release also spoke to the trail’s danger.

“People don’t realize this is a dangerous hike and if you get hurt there’s no cell service and help can be a long ways off,” said Verl Nakama in a release.

‘We’re just trying to see it’

Case, who was one of several hikers at the trailhead interviewed Friday and Saturday, said it was unfair that DOCARE was citing hikers, saying the trail is one everyone wants to do.

“My mom told me that if anyone were to tell us anything, it’s like for cultural purposes,” said Case. “Because we do respect the land; we’re here to pray for the good of it.”

“We’re not trying to do anything bad,” she added. “We’re just trying to see it, feel it.”

A couple of residents in the area said they disagreed with the citations.

“I don’t mind if people go, just gotta be safe. Travel in a pack.” said Vernon Kaniho, 23.

Kaniho, who lives up the road from the trailhead, said he hasn’t hiked the trail but he’s seen fewer people in the last week, and that the state should just let hikers go.

“Let them adventure, you know,” he said.

Ben Palermo, 72, has lived in a house along the road since 1987 and said hikers should be responsible for their own safety if they choose to go on the trail.

“It’s up to them if they like to go over there,” he said. “They’re gonna get hurt, that’s their problem, yeah?”

But James DuPont, West Hawaii district supervisor for the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands, said the matter is clear. Signs at the gate marking the DHHL boundary clearly warn against trespassing.

“I mean it’s pretty simple,” he said. “If this was your private property, how would you feel if the masses just crossed your land?”

‘We need to be conscious’

Juni Medeiros, whose family has held the lease to the Hawaiian Home Lands parcel for more than 40 years, declined to speak about the recent citations or enforcement by DLNR, but did want hikers anywhere on the island to keep in mind the unintended consequences their day on a trail might have.

That includes unknowingly carrying in invasive species and causing them to spread.

“When people come in from all different parts of the island where they come from, they come in with shoes, especially, that might have certain insects from their area that contaminates our area,” he said.

That can put forests and other forms of life at risk if they haven’t developed adequate defenses.

That holds true for not only this area, he said, but anywhere hikers may go.

“Traveling should be a caution with those things in mind,” he said. “In order for us to survive, we need to be conscious and conscious of life.”

And while hikers might be OK assuming any risks involved in taking on the hike, Medeiros reminded them that it’s not just their own lives they might be putting in danger.

“You gotta think about that part, too,” he said.

In the past, he said, he’s witnessed trucks of emergency responders coming in for rescues. Medeiros said “the guy coming in for you” is putting his own life on the line, too.

“He’s got a 2-year-old and he’s waiting for his daddy to come home,” he said.

 

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