HAENA STATE PARK, KAUAI (HawaiiNewsNow) – There’s a new law that officials hope will allow more community-based non-profits to control the number of visitors at state parks.
The law signed Thursday by Gov. Josh Green would allow community partnerships to manage state parks, like Haena State Park, a popular tourism destination on Kauai that officials and community members said was becoming overcrowded, overtaxed and overloved.
So Haena State Park was where the bill-signing ceremony was held. The law says the state can only negotiate parking and concession agreements with local non-profits for state parks that are environmentally, culturally or historically unique.
Those parking operators could limit the number of visitors, like they did at Haena.
“We’ve been worried.” Gov. Green said. “We’ve been worried for a long time about the impact of our visitors. Overcrowding. Damage to what we think is the most precious, which is our land which we need for our keiki.”
At its peak, the park was drawing 2,000 visitors a day. Historical flooding in 2018 shut down the 65-acre park, which allowed state officials to take a step back to re-think how to manage the area.
Now, the community non-profit Hui Maka’ainana o Makana oversees a parking reservation and entry fee program, with a daily limit of 900 people.
“The hui has had a vision from our inception of reducing the number of cars coming down to Haena,” said Hui board member Chipper Wichman.
“Individuals from that community were specifically hired to manage the parts of the ecosystem they created around the management plan,” said Tyler Iokepa Gomes, who’s in charge of the tourism division of the Council for Native Hawaiian Advancement. “Part of it is voice, but part of it is also creating benefits for the community.”
The DLNR also unveiled a Haena State Park playbook as a guide to other communities near visitor hotspots on how they can work with the government to manage visitor destinations.
“We’re doing destination management pretty much one park at a time, methodically and slowly. And that’s why it’s working,” stated Curt Cottrell, administrator of the State Parks Division.
“The visitor industry in and of itself can tend to be extractive in nature, so any opportunity there is for our communities to see real benefits — and actually be realized within the community,” said Gomes.
“This is our destination management example,” Gov. Green said. “This is really a translation of what people wanted us to do, what people asked us to do. And here it is.”
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