(BIVN) – The Waipiʻo Valley Road is now closed to visitors.
The County of Hawaiʻi issued a new Emergency Rule limiting access to the road on Friday, citing the hazardous conditions of steep, vehicular path leading to the treasured Waipiʻo Valley.
The road remains open to Waipiʻo Valley residents, farmers, property owners and lease holders with agricultural businesses. Officials say the decision is “based on recommendations provided in a geotechnical assessment done on Waipio Valley Road, which outlines the immediate need to mitigate rockfall and address slope instability and erosion, for everyone’s safety.”
“The Island of Hawaii Visitors Bureau (IHVB) fully supports the County of Hawaii’s decision to close Waipio Valley Road to visitors until further notice,” said Ross Birch, Island of Hawaii Visitors Bureau executive director. “Understanding the community’s concerns about tourism’s impacts on this sacred and culturally significant place, we have not promoted traversing into the Valley for more than a decade now. We are distributing this update widely to our visitors and network of industry partners both here on-island and across the globe.”
Mayor Mitch Roth’s Feb. 25, 2022 Waipiʻo Valley Road Emergency Rule No. 1 reads:
Pursuant to the authority vested in me by Hawai‘i Revised Statutes (“HRS”) Section 264-1.5 and due to the hazardous conditions of Waipio Valley Road, which are a threat to public health and safety, I hereby adopt and promulgate the following rules which have the force and effect of law. This Emergency Rule is based upon scientific information and expertise available, Waipio Valley Road is in imminent threat of slope and roadway failure threatening the health, safety and welfare of the people; and WHEREAS, the danger of disaster is of such magnitude to warrant preemptive and protective action in order to provide for the health, safety, and welfare of the people; and
I, Mitchell D. Roth, Mayor of the County of Hawaiʻi, hereby authorize the following:
A. Waipio Valley Road Closure Waipio Valley Road shall be closed, subject to the express limited exceptions herein.
B. Limited Access Exceptions
1. Residents and farmers of Waipi‘o Valley (no visitors);
2. Property Owners or Leaseholders of Waipi‘o Valley with verified agricultural activity, limited to crop cultivation, or animal husbandry (including essential farm workers) (no visitors) ;
3. County/State/Federal governmental employees, verified governmental contractors, and Non-Government Organization (“NGO”)’s authorized to respond to the emergency;
4. Those permitted Limited Access Exceptions pursuant to sections 1-4 above, shall be by:
a.) Four-wheel drive vehicles only;
Vehicle shall be engaged in four-wheel drive mode;
b.) Vehicles with a GVWR of up to 10,000 lbs.;
c.) Exceptions for emergency response vehicles;
d.) Exceptions expressly authorized by the Mayor.
C. Further Restrictions and Prohibitions on Businesses, Operations, and Activities in the Waipio Valley Area that require access via Waipio Valley Road
D. Regardless of Limited Access Exceptions pursuant to section B, the operation of the following Businesses and Activities are prohibited:
1. Tourism activities;
2. Voluntary stewardship programs;
3. Transient Vacation Rentals (“TVRs”);
4. Camping, including but not limited to State of Hawaii permitted camping sites.
E. Prohibition on Pedestrian and Non-Covered Vehicles
a. Prohibition of all pedestrian access to Waipio Valley Road;
b. Prohibition of all uncovered vehicular access to Waipio Valley Road, including but not limited to ATVs;
c. Prohibition of horseback access to Waipio Valley Road;
F. Regardless of Limited Access Exceptions pursuant to section B, Complete Closure During Significant and Prolonged Rain Events All access is to Waipio Valley Road is prohibited during Significant and Prolonged Rain Events, which shall be defined as:
a. 1.5 inches or more of rain predicted in a 1-hour period; or
b. 9 inches or more of rain predicted in a 24-hour period.
All vehicular access to enter Waipio Valley via Waipio Valley Road shall be prohibited and exiting Waipio Valley via Waipio Valley Road shall be limited to emergency usage only. In the event of a natural disaster during which evacuation on the valley is required, the prohibitions shall be lifted only for the purpose of exiting the valley.
IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand and caused the Seal of the County of Hawai‘i to be affixed. Done this 25th day of February, 2022 in Hilo, Hawai‘i.
“This road closure supports and accelerates our destination management efforts to address tourism issues surrounding Waipio Valley, which was deemed a hotspot by the community as outlined in Hawaii Island’s Destination Management Action Plan,” said Birch. “We continue to do all we can to steer the direction of tourism for our island with the community’s well-being top of mind.”