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After years of complaints, advocates coordinate massive cleanup of Kalalau Valley

Published: Oct. 1, 2020 at 5:37 PM HST
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HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - Megan Wong describes the Kalalau Trail on Kauai’s Na Pali Coast as one of the most beautiful in the world."

But allured by the isolation, squatters have lived deep in Kalalau Valley for years and even decades ― leaving illegal campsites, mounds of debris and even a toilet behind.

“They are a mix of some people running away from civilization to be more free, run naked and do as they please,” Wong Said.

After years of complaints and mounting concern, volunteers decided to do something about the problem. For the past two months, they’ve been tracking and GPS marking about 20 illegal campsites and warning the squatters they’d be back to clean up.

“Things have been stashed under rocks, in caves, stashed in spots, some buried. We cleaned out a meth lab,” said Wong.

Instead of an 11-mile hike in, they took a 45-minute boat ride from Hanalei to just off shore of Kalalau.

Over the weekend, a group of 50 volunteers went in to find the campsites abandoned and tore everything down. “Loaded it all on their backs and we hauled hundreds of pounds out to the main trail. We hiked to the main trail to wherever a helicopter can pick it up,” said Wong.

On Thursday, the state Department of Land and Natural Resources sent in a helicopter for the massive removal effort.

It’s welcome support for residents who feel the state hasn’t done enough over the years to protect Kalalau.

“We would like to work together with them, but we are not asking for permission,” said Wong.

The DLNR says for at least the past five years, it’s been proactive in addressing illegal camping and rubbish throughout the Na Pali Coast especially Kalalau.

There have been more than 200 citations since 2016.

“I can tell you from my frequent trips into Kalalau, it is significantly cleaner, better controlled and managed than it was since the video five years ago,” said Dan Dennison, DLNR spokesman.

Advocates say many of them lost tourism jobs during the pandemic so now with more time and renewed passion, it’s their kuleana to protect a valley they consider sacred.

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