KALALAU, KAUAI (HawaiiNewsNow) - Ongoing efforts by the Department of Land and Natural Resources to ensure the health of Kauai's Kalalau Valley is paying off, officials say.
In a three-day sweep last week, DLNR's DOCARE officers reported removing two and a half tons of garbage from illegal campsites throughout the valley. Eight marijuana plants were also seized, and six people were arrested for closed-area violations.
Officers also dismantled 15 large and illegal campsites in the valley, in addition to various smaller camps and squatters' stashes of gear. Officials also found elaborate gardens where bananas, papayas, taro and other fruits were growing.
The illegal squatting has had an impact on the valley's historically valuable cultural sites.
"The degradation to cultural sites is at an all-time high," State Parks Assistant Administrator Alan Carpenter said. "Reversing those impacts and restoring sites is a future goal, requiring a combination of documentation, compliance, staffing and community stewardship."
DLNR officials say the enforcement, which started two years ago, is finally paying off.
More visitors to the valley are obtaining proper permitting, and have responded to the cleanliness of the area.
"Every week we receive correspondence from people who've legally hiked into Kalalau and are commenting on how clean the area is and how the number of illegal camps and campers are greatly diminished," DLNR Chair Suzanne Case said in a press release.
The DLNR hopes to continue these enforcement efforts into 2018. They will request funding for full-time staff to support the management of the park.
Kalalau valley is Hawaii's largest, and most remote state park, according to DLNR officials.
Officials want to remind park visitors that proper permits are required for travel beyond the two-mile marker at the Hanakapiai stream. Camping is only allowed at designated areas such as Kalalau Beach.