HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - You could almost forgive them their curiosity ― if it weren’t for all the problems they bring. Problems for a community that has had more than its fair share.
The lookie-loos come to Leilani Estates by the dozens, every single day, flocking to ground zero for the 2018 Kilauea eruption as if the subdivision were a perverse attraction ― and not a neighborhood struggling to recover from a disaster.
They traipse over private property, venturing into people’s backyards for a better look at the scarred and still steaming land.
They come to see the towering black walls of lava, testaments to nature’s might.
And they ignore warnings to stay out.
Stacy Welch tries to be patient with them. She really does. But ― it’s hard.
“It’s learning how to deal with them in a polite, respectful manner,” said the Kupono Street resident, whose life was upended by the eruption.
Welch long ago decided it wasn’t worth it to call authorities when someone showed up at her lonely lot, her neighbors’ homes all buried under lava.
Instead, she lets the trespassers know that “people are trying to heal here and that now is not the time to be doing this.”
Most folks are receptive to that message. But not everyone hears it.
A particularly popular spot for visitors is Fissure no. 8, the new endpoint to a stretch of road.
While the eruption was in full swing, fissure no. 8 was a monster, spewing out 26,000 gallons of lava per second and creating fountains over 200 feet high.
The fissure has since quieted, leaving behind a 180-foot-tall, steaming cinder cone. A small mountain where there were previously roads and homes and yards.
Hawaii County doesn’t want people climbing the fissure 8 cone. They don’t want visitors taking selfies there. Put plainly, the fissure is not safe.
And so they’ve posted signs that arguably could not be clearer: “No trespassing” one says in front of a guardrail placed across the road that the fissure 8 cone shoots out of.
Another reads: “Restricted area” and has pictograms that deliver related messages: No parking here, no dropping people off here, no walking here.
Violators, the sign adds, will be prosecuted.
The signs leave no room for argument. And the signs are categorically ignored.
On a recent day, visitors nonchalantly walk by the “no trespassing” sign to hike at the base of the cinder cone, squinting up at its peak as they venture uphill.
How do these visitors learn about fissure no. 8? Online posts, probably, or maybe word of mouth. Perhaps some just venture into Leilani Estates and find themselves there.
How do you keep them out?
Residents and the county have been struggling with that question for months. Some support blocking access to Leilani Estates entirely to all but residents and their guests. Others say that’s too extreme a solution.
In the meantime, the visitors keep coming, pointing their rental cars to a place where hundreds of homes were claimed by lava ― and where dozens more were significantly damaged.
And for the foreseeable future, Welch will be there to catch some of them and ask politely, Could you leave us alone? Please?