Graffiti vandals hit Maunawili Falls rocks
Vandals spray-painted red graffiti on large rocks at the popular Maunawili Falls Trail, disappointing hikers and state officials.
"My heart sank when I got to the beautiful pool and found that many of the rocks had bright red paint on them," said Aaron Lowe, Oahu trails and access specialist of the Department of Land and Natural Resources. "I could not understand why somebody would mess up such a nice place."
Lowe and a small group of volunteers removed bright-red spray paint on most of the rocks located near the freshwater pool and stream at the Maunawili Falls Trail yesterday. About eight rocks were defaced. Lowe and the volunteers are expected to return to the site tomorrow to remove graffiti from the remaining rocks.
Volunteers surrounded the affected rocks with plastic bags to catch flakes of paint to prevent them from entering the water as they removed the graffiti with a grinder and sanding pad. "Paints contain certain toxins that could very easily kill aquatic life in the stream or make the water toxic to swim in," Lowe said.
Opai, crayfish and prawns can be found in the stream. "These areas are part of our watershed. We need to keep these areas clean of contaminants like paint," he said.
It is believed the rocks were defaced within the past two weeks. Staff discovered a red spray-paint can Tuesday around the pool area but did not immediately report the finding to Lowe.
He discovered the graffiti two days later during a routine trail inspection.
Some directional trail signs, trees, benches and steps were also defaced. While graffiti was found on those a number of times in the past, this is the first time in a decade that graffiti was discovered on rocks in the same area.
"It's just disrespectful and unacceptable behavior. We're supposed to protect and preserve our natural resources," Lowe said.
He noted that the trail is the "most vandalized trail by far out of the 42 (trails and dirt roads) that I manage," Lowe said.
Randy Ching, Oahu Group chairman of the Sierra Club-Hawaii Chapter, was part of a group that spent summers during the 1990s to build the Maunawili Falls Trail. About 30 members also built a connecting trail and rebuilt the first two miles of the Maunawili Trail.
Ching said he was disappointed to hear rocks were defaced at the trail. "I feel a little ownership of it," he said.
Violators who damage or disturb any natural feature or resource of the trail could face a fine of up to $2,500, according to officials.
People observing any illegal activity like graffiti at the Maunawili Falls Trail can call the Department of Land and Natural Resources 24-hour hot line at 643-DLNR (3567).