(BIVN) – The State of Hawaii is clamping down on trespassers into the Kohala Forest Reserve.
The Department of Land and Natural Resources recorded video of a recent Division of Conservation and Resources Enforcement operation that resulted in more than 60 hikers getting cited or warned for entering the closed area. The travelers were partaking in the so-called “White Road” hike, which the state says has been popularized on social media.
The Kohala Forest Reserve has been closed since the 2006 Kiholo Bay earthquake.
“People don’t realize this is a dangerous hike and if you get hurt there’s no cell service and help can be a long ways off,” commented DOCARE North Hawaii Supervisor Verl Nakama.
Nakama hopes the action – and the video recording – will help spread the word that there are “numerous, equally as stunning, safe and legal hikes across the state.”
According to DLNR:
For most hikers trespassing into the forest reserve, their destination is a water flume on the Kohala ditch that drops 35 feet into a small, shallow pool. Officers say it’s amazing no one has been hurt sliding down the flume. In addition to trespassing onto closed DLNR lands hikers pass through private land, Dept. of Hawaiian Home Lands (DHHL) property, and across physical features under the jurisdiction of the Dept. Of Agriculture (DOA).
As officers took individuals or small groups of hikers aside to explain why they were being cited, they asked if the trespassers crawled over two locked gates and noticed numerous closed and no trespassing signs? In every instance each hiker said yes, they’d ignored the gates and signs.
In the DLNR’s video recording of the enforcement action, the unsuspecting hikers appeared surprised to find the officers waiting for them in the forest.
“You’re serious?” asked one distraught visitor after being informed there would be a mandatory court date to go along with the written citation. The group of hikers were from Seattle.
“If you don’t show up for court, its just like a speeding ticket,” the DOCARE officer tells the hikers in the DLNR video, “they will issue a warrant for your arrest.”
Joining the law enforcement squad of eight was Officer James Ridzon, an eight year DOCARE veteran, who was recently selected as the first recipient of the DLNR/DOCARE Officer of the Year award.
Stopping the illegal hikes will also require internet outreach, DLNR says.
DLNR plans to inform travel oriented websites and blogs that post encouragements to ignore the law, to inform their readers that they will be cited if they trespass into the Kohala Forest Reserve and the restricted Kohala watershed. Hunters and others with valid permits from the DLNR Division of Forestry and Wildlife (DOFAW) can legally enter the reserve as long as they are engaged in activity listed on their permits.
The officers wrote citations to 49 adults and gave written warnings to 14 hikers under the age of 18. DOCARE plans additional, unannounced sweeps in the future.