Trespassers are routinely ignoring closure signs at Iao Valley State Monument on Maui, according to state DLNR officials, breaking the law to visit an attraction that remains under heavy construction.
The Department of Land and Natural Resources says September flooding at the monument created dangerous conditions for visitors, and although a massive repair project began last month, the park still sees trespassers on a daily basis.
“The major problem we've been having is that although there are signs posted saying the park is closed, people still come up here,” said Maui District Superintendent for State Parks Larry Pacheco. “The main problem is that it's a hazard, we don't want anyone getting hurt,” Pacheco said.
Pacheco says it’s not just a safety concern ... it's illegal.
"We've had to ask our enforcement officers to make checks, periodic checks, especially weekends and holidays, to get people to comply with the park closure," Pacheco said.
Pacheco says nearly every time he goes to Iao Valley, he catches people trespassing. Some, he says, are insistent on entering, while others apologize and leave.
Maui County officials say people parking illegally at the park is also a big problem.
“What we’re running into is a traffic problem, and people parking illegally and people blocking the entrance into the neighborhood that's across the park," said Maui County Communications Director Rod Antone.
Antone said violators can be punished.
"Right now, we're just telling residents if they see people blocking public roads, call the police. We'll come out there and they'll get a warning or they'll get ticketed," Antone said.
The county is also concerned that with Merrie Monarch Festival right around the corner, hula halau will want to gather ferns, ti leaves and flowers from the valley for spiritual purposes.
Antone said the county is willing to work with hula practitioners who want access, but some kumu hula believe the closure is a good thing.
"I believe that's it's a good time for healing. The valley has been through so much, and it just needs its time for us to leave it alone,” said Kamaka Kukona. "It's absolutely necessary for the valley to be able to heal without us going in there and trampling and kicking and all those things."
The state says it hopes to have the park reopened by June.