TOM FINNEGAN / TFINNEGAN@STARBULLETIN.COM
Kathleen Gissing and her dog, Knicki, found out that it is illegal to walk a dog -- even while leashed -- on a new Kauai coastal path because it is being maintained by the county parks department, and dogs are not allowed in county parks.
Fur flies over trail ban
KAPAA, Kauai » Kauai dog owners are incensed at the county's plan to ban dogs along the new $50 million, 16-mile coastal path set to link Lihue and Anahola.
When the second segment of the bike path, the 2.5-mile stretch from Lihi Park to Kealia Beach Park, opened on Feb. 15, county officials announced that they would be enforcing a county ordinance that dogs, regardless of whether they are on leashes, are not allowed in any county parks.
This week, members of the Kauai Police Department and the county parks department began enforcing the ban, first with a warning and then, starting next week, with a ticket and a trip to court.
Fines can range from $15 to $500, according to the ordinance.
Dog owners say discussion of the ban started months ago. But with the 30-plus person shortage at the Kauai Police Department and a limited number of park rangers, few thought that the county would actually enforce the ban.
In a county where one in three households owns a dog, according to Kauai Humane Society Director Dr. Becky Rhoades, dogs are daily visitors to county beaches, parks and hiking paths.
Few knew they were breaking the law.
It became real for Kathleen Gissing Tuesday morning when she was stopped by police while walking her dog, Knicki, on the new section of the bike path.
The two officers gave her a warning ticket, adding that next week she would face a fine.
"I'm so frustrated," said Gissing, a Kapaa resident. "Since when is a sidewalk a park?"
Long before the path was proposed, a cane haul road linked the majority of the stretch. For decades, dog owners, walkers and bikers have shared the road.
But when the section of the path was built and opened, it was turned over to the county parks department for management and maintenance, said county Parks Director Bernard Carvalho.
Since dogs are not allowed in county parks, "it is our duty to comply with the law as it now stands," Carvalho said in an e-mailed response to questions.
Dog owners are angry that a popular spot to exercise their pets has been taken away.
"It's amazing that the county would spend ($50) million in federal funds to take away our rights," Gissing added.
Rhoades said county rangers and police do enforce the no-dog law when they receive complaints about a certain park.
The first phase of the 16-mile bike path project, fronting Lydgate Park and completed in 2003, has banned dogs since its inception. But, Rhoades said, when a dog on a leash bit a woman, parks officials and police began rigorously enforcing the law there.
"He ruined it for all of us," Rhoades said.
Dog lovers are putting together a bill to change the ordinance in the coming months, Rhoades said.
Carvalho said dog owners could change the law in two ways: either through a voter petition signed by 20 percent of the eligible voters on Kauai, or through a councilmember's initiation.
Either process could be lengthy, Carvalho added.
Until then, many dog owners, like Gissing, will stay away from the convenient and beautiful new trail.
However, one man running with his dog Tuesday night said he was unaware of the dog ban. When told of the ordinance, the man, who would not give his name, said he would continue running with his dog "until they tackle me."