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Hawaii Volcanoes Nationwide Park expands to Pohue Bay, sparking fears of overtourism


To seek out probably the most lovely seashore on the south facet of Hawaii Island, look someplace between a rock and a tough place. That’s the attitude of many longtime residents within the rural district of Kau (pronounced kah-OOH), the place 16,451 rugged acres formally turned a part of Hawaii Volcanoes Nationwide Park on July 12. 

Though Pohue Bay’s sandy seashore, historic websites, petroglyphs, sea turtle nesting grounds and different pure and cultural sources are actually protected against the specter of growth, those that have historically used the distant space — for fishing, gathering, searching, visiting ancestral grave websites and recreation — nonetheless fear that conservation may imply dropping entry, sharing it with hordes of tourists, or each.
“Any time there’s any form of massive land buy in Kau, it at all times raises considerations throughout the neighborhood,” Nohealani Kaawa, a Native Hawaiian cultural practitioner and lifelong resident of the district, informed SFGATE. “Rather a lot has been taken away from the Indigenous individuals generally. We’ve got entry to those locations, and when a brand new proprietor is available in and purchases land, there’s this massive concern that entry is being taken from us.”

However unrestricted entry has additionally introduced many points to a few of Hawaii’s most cherished websites.  
Within the case of Pohue Bay, dwelling to the one white sand seashore in Kau and websites that present human habitation as early because the thirteenth century, the specter of growth has loomed for the reason that Eighties. Sixteen years in the past, a developer purchased the land round Pohue Bay, planning for resorts, golf programs and hundreds of residences. However after a decade of making an attempt, the corporate gave up. .

“There’s so many archaeological websites, and the neighborhood gained’t assist a challenge that’s prepared to bulldoze these websites for revenue,” Kaawa mentioned.

Pohue Bay is a critical habitat for many endangered species like the Honuea (Hawaiian hawksbill turtle). In July, Pohue Bay was purchased by the Trust for Public Land and transferred to the National Park Service. It's now part of the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. 

Pohue Bay is a vital habitat for a lot of endangered species just like the Honuea (Hawaiian hawksbill turtle). In July, Pohue Bay was bought by the Belief for Public Land and transferred to the Nationwide Park Service. It is now a part of the Hawaii Volcanoes Nationwide Park. 

NPS Photograph

Hawaii Volcanoes Nationwide Park has been considering buying Pohue Bay since 2016, when it turned a part of the park’s basic administration plan, in line with park spokesperson Jessica Ferracane. She mentioned that it took place “after listening to from the neighborhood that they needed this place protected.” The nonprofit Belief for Public Land transferred the land to the park this month after shopping for it for $9.4 million.
“The Kau neighborhood itself recognized in its personal growth plan that this was a precedence for conservation,” Lea Hong, the Belief for Public Land’s director of Hawaii applications and affiliate vice chairman, informed SFGATE. Together with the land, the belief additionally gave $800,000 to the nonprofit Buddies of Hawaii Volcanoes Nationwide Park to assist handle Pohue Bay till the park can formally funds for these bills.
Nonetheless, the Kau neighborhood’s fears about lack of entry seem justified within the quick time period. For now, Pohue Bay is closed to everybody, “till the interim working plan is full and we will guarantee there may be protected entry,” Ferracane mentioned.
“There are not any loos, no formalized parking or capability for trash removing, emergency response is severely restricted, and that is the massive problem: To succeed in the shoreline from land, hikers and autos utilizing the present roads or trails that exist need to cross by way of adjoining non-public property, and we wouldn’t have authority because the park to permit that entry,” Ferracane informed SFGATE. “And we’ll need to safe devoted funding to assist useful resource safety and entry.”

With the park service simply beginning archaeological and different surveys of the 26-square-mile space, Ferracane mentioned there is no such thing as a timeline for when that interim working plan can be prepared. Nevertheless, the park plans to carry a collection of neighborhood conferences subsequent month, “to discover what sort of public entry could be supplied sooner or later,” she mentioned.

A large cinder cone along the coastline of Pohue.

A big cinder cone alongside the shoreline of Pohue.

NPS Photograph/J.Ferracane

“Step one is listening to the Kau neighborhood and the Native Hawaiian households who’ve ancestral and conventional subsistence connections to the land and the shoreline,” she added. “We need to perceive their considerations about what wants safety there, and we need to use that data they supply to tell administration choices.”

Unrestricted entry is a priority for Kaawa, who serves on the stewardship committee of the nonprofit Ala Kahakai Path Affiliation, named for Hawaii Island’s historical coastal path. The affiliation is working with the Belief for Public Land and different conservation teams to guard all the just about undeveloped 80-mile shoreline of Kau.
“When you will have open entry and everyone seems to be free to do as they please, coupled with the shortage of training, safety or enforcement, locations get overharvested and sacred websites get destroyed,” Kaawa mentioned.

She pointed to the consequences of ever-increasing numbers of tourists at two Kau landmarks: Ka Lae (also called South Level), the southernmost tip of Hawaii that many imagine is the place Polynesian voyagers first landed a thousand or extra years in the past, and Punaluu Black Sand Seashore, a palm-lined, glistening volcanic seashore famend for inexperienced sea turtles.

At Punaluu's black sand beach, turtles are often seen basking in the sun. 

At Punaluu’s black sand seashore, turtles are sometimes seen basking within the solar. 

Jeanne Cooper

At Ka Lae, off-road drivers and hikers have solid their very own trails to Papakolea, the inexperienced sand seashore, inflicting erosion to the land and decimating native vegetation. Regardless of plans by the Division of Hawaiian House Lands to guard the realm, “enforcement is just not occurring,” Kaawa mentioned.
Over at Punaluu, the inexperienced sea turtles that come to bask within the solar a number of toes from the surf “are getting so inundated with vacationers,” Kaawa mentioned.

Quite a few indicators advise staying again at the least 20 toes from the turtles, formally categorised as a threatened species, and Hawaii County lifeguards at Punaluu Black Sand Seashore have voluntarily constructed low partitions of lava rocks round basking areas to emphasise the necessity for distance. However the lifeguards solely work 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
“When the lifeguards depart, individuals simply stroll proper as much as the turtles,” mentioned one lifeguard, who requested to not be named, resulting from a division coverage prohibiting unauthorized interviews. “We’ll even see individuals take a look at the indicators, take a look at us, contact the turtles anyway after which run away.”

The coastline of Pohue is an important resource to Native Hawaiians for fishing.

The shoreline of Pohue is a vital useful resource to Native Hawaiians for fishing.

NPS Photograph/J.Ferracane

Some 20 miles west of Punaluu, Pohue Bay is a “prime spot” for hawksbill and inexperienced sea turtle nesting, Kaawa famous. “Just like the Indigenous individuals being displaced from the land, the turtles are being displaced from their properties, they solely have a lot shoreline alongside Kau the place they’ll nest,” she mentioned. “As a result of we’re contemporary Pele aina [land created by lava flows], there are solely these little pockets of sand the place they’ll come again to their one hanau, their start land, to present start to their kids.”
Ideally, future entry to Pohue Bay must be restricted to individuals from Kau, or individuals accompanied by somebody from Kau “for subsistence gathering functions and to spiritually reconnect,” Kaawa mentioned.

Hawaiian hawksbill turtle hatchlings make their way to the water, on the beach of Pohue Bay.

Hawaiian hawksbill turtle hatchlings make their solution to the water, on the seashore of Pohue Bay.

NPS Photograph

Based on Ferracane, it’s too early to foretell what sort of public entry and use will ultimately be allowed at Pohue Bay, the place “critically tough” Jeep trails take a minimal of an hour to navigate from the freeway to the shore. No matter is determined after the neighborhood conferences and park research are completed, “we’ll want to take care of that over the lengthy haul,” she mentioned. 
After Hawaii Volcanoes Nationwide Park acquired 116,000 acres of the previous Kahuku Ranch on the mountain facet of Freeway 11 in 2003, it took 5 years earlier than the realm opened to the general public, initially for a number of ranger-led hikes, Ferracane mentioned. “A large number of tasks went into getting it prepared, together with intensive cultural and pure useful resource surveys,” she famous.
Today, rangers nonetheless lead weekend hikes whereas a “customer contact station” — an off-the-cuff customer heart with shows, pamphlets and a small present store — simply opened final yr. The Kahuku Unit’s hours additionally lately expanded to eight a.m. to 4 p.m. Thursday by way of Sunday, with an “final objective” of being open seven days every week, Ferracane mentioned. “It’s very undervisited, and that’s a part of its magnificence,” she added. “It’s a stunning and intriguing space the place guests can nonetheless expertise solitude and sweeping views of the shoreline.”
Regardless of considerations about what the long run could maintain for Pohue Bay, on the opposite facet of the freeway, the Nationwide Park Service is Kau’s “best choice we have now for a caretaker” in comparison with those that need to develop it, in line with Kaawa.
“If there ever is such a time that the true authorities of the Kingdom of Hawaii is restored and these lands are returned to the rightful lineal descents of Kau, that’s the final land acquisition that we await to totally assist,” Kaawa mentioned. “Till then, we need to preserve these locations free from growth and overexposure, whereas concurrently with the ability to exist in our non secular locations of worship and proceed subsistence gathering.”

Editor’s notice: SFGATE acknowledges the significance of diacritical marks within the Hawaiian language. We’re unable to make use of them as a result of limitations of our publishing platform.




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