The Department of Land and Natural Resources Division of State Parks is taking the next step to restore additional public recreational access to the waters of Kealakekua Bay State Historical Park after imposing a moratorium that began January 2, 2013 on all vessels entering the bay and all landing at Ka'awaloa.
Swimming and snorkeling have continuously been allowed in the bay without permits.
Taking a phased approach, State Parks in January began issuing permits to commercial and non-commercial vessels to merely transit the bay entering from an outside location (no landing of passengers on land allowed – only swimming in the water).
Next, in April and May, the division authorized the three previously permitted commercial kayak guided tour companies to resume operations with strict permit conditions.
State Parks has now begun issuing special use permits with specific use conditions for the non-commercial recreational use of crafts such as kayaks, stand-up paddle boards and one-person canoes in the waters of Kealakekua Bay. There is no cost to these permits.
Many of these users have been contacting the department for months to ask when they could resume their personal recreational hobby to paddle in the bay.
"Mahalo to those of you who have waited patiently as DLNR grappled with a variety of strategies and legal evaluations that were necessary to restore both a quality experience and provide enhanced resource protection to Kealakekua Bay State Historical Park," said William J. Aila, Jr., DLNR chairman.
"Due to the legal complexity of changing management of the water from our Division of Boating and Ocean Recreation to the Division of State Parks, with different sets of administrative rules, more time than we anticipated has been needed to allow for various stages of public vessel access to waters of the bay to resume," Aila said. "DLNR will continue to evaluate all vessel and public behavior and magnitude and determine, as needed, if further changes and conditions are warranted."
Special use permits are now being issued for non-commercial, personal use of primarily paddle vessels, subject to a set of the following eight conditions:
- No launching or landing of vessels from the wharf at Napo'opo'o landing.
- No landing or transporting of people to land or to traverse any of the land at Ka'awaloa Flats.
- No launching or deployment of any auxiliary vessels from the permitted vessel. Swimmers are allowed in the water but not to access Ka'awaloa Flats.
- Motorized vessels are to operate at a "no wake" speed.
- There shall be no damage to any live coral, or tampering or interfering with other marine life and mammals. All legal distances are to be maintained from marine mammals.
- If an emergency landing is required on land within KBSHP, the DLNR Hawai'i State Park Office must be notified within 24 hours of the landing and report the nature of the emergency and the need to land.
- These conditions may be subject to change due to resource management decisions.
- Violation of any of these permit conditions may cause the revocation of the permit.
Special use permit request forms may be obtained by e-mailing DSP Permit Staff at Jacqueline.M.Velasco@hawaii.gov
Years of unmanaged proliferation of rental kayak use and the illegal commercial rentals of kayaks from historic Napo'opo'o wharf and landings at Ka'awaloa Flats have impacted marine life in Kealakekua Bay and historic resources at Ka'awaloa Flats. Unsustainable high numbers of unregulated traffic and the overall aesthetic degradation of the quality of experience in this culturally significant historic area led to the Department of Land and Natural Resources to determine it was time to implement a moratorium "time out" in order to rest the resources while better management actions could be developed.
At the end of 2012, the department legally changed the jurisdiction of the Napo'opo'o landing and the waters of the bay, via an executive order and set aside approved by both the Board of Land and Natural Resources and by the governor.
This action transferred the legal and management jurisdiction from the DLNR Division of Boating and Ocean Recreation to the Division of State Parks and consolidated jurisdiction with the other adjacent park areas for clarified management and enforcement.
In January 2013, the Division of State Parks issued conditional permits to allow first commercial, and then also non-commercial vessels, only to transit the water of the bay, with no landing or dropping patrons off on the land at Ka'awaloa flats.
The Land Board authorized three commercial kayak tour companies to resume launching from Napoopoo Landing thus allowing a limited number of guided tour clients to traverse Kealakekua Bay and land at Ka'awaloa Flats. The kayak tours are authorized under month-to-month revocable permits that must be renewed annually by the board.
Permit conditions for these operations include limitations on the number of landings and areas of use at Ka'awaloa, number of customers per trip, and duration of landings and a stipulation that their patrons and guides when transiting Ka'awaloa Flats have a method to both contain and transport human waste and remove it from Ka'awaloa Flats.
These permit conditions and limits are intended to mitigate the impacts to marine, coastal and archaeological resources that have been associated with the large numbers of unmonitored kayak visitors to Ka'awaloa Flats.
There is a need to further evaluate and consider methods to reduce the impacts to the culturally significant Ka‘awaloa Flats that may include a management strategy to respond to the hikers that enter the park boundary along historic Ka'awaloa Trail.