Ocean Watch

By Susan Scott

Monday, April 1, 1996

No fooling - government must
make trailheads safe

LAST week, after several frustrating computer crashes, I decided to treat myself to a hike at Kaena Point Nature Park. I drove my car to the end of the road where I parked in a clean, paved stall.

As I got out of the car, a police officer patrolling the area on a bicycle greeted me.

Quietly, we discussed the beauty of this exquisite wilderness. Moments later, I started my hike with a feeling of gratitude that such a serene place exists on this otherwise frenzied island.


Here's the real story: Last week after several frustrating computer crashes, I treated myself to a hike at Kaena Point Nature Park.

When I arrived at the trailhead, I felt even more depressed. Broken glass lay everywhere in the pitted, dirt field. Motorcycles and four-wheel-drive vehicles charged unrestrained around the so-called gate, creating such a racket that I had to shout to a friend standing right next to me to be heard.

IT took more than two miles of walking to get away from the dust, smoke and noise. We returned to the car a couple hours later, covered in red dirt - as was my car. The dirt was so thick, I couldn't see through the windows to drive. After a pathetic attempt to clean them, I grumped home, both car and driver filthy.

"It's just the weekend," I rationalized. "I should only go out there on weekdays, when it's quieter."

So I did, a few days later. It's true there were fewer trucks and no dirt bikes barreling around inside the gate. This time, however, I came back to my car to find that I could see out the window just fine - because it was gone. So was every single item in the car.

I drove home in a sea of broken glass and called police. They wouldn't come to my North Shore house. Why?

"You wouldn't believe the number of break-ins like this that happen out there. We can't possibly come for each one," I was told.

Uh, isn't there a clue there? I wondered out loud. The officer sighed and I knew what was coming: not enough money; not enough officers.

THE good part of this wretched story is that on both hikes, after I got through the vehicular battlefield and before I found my car trashed, I fully enjoyed myself.

At the far end of Kaena is a true pot of gold. This small section of preserve lies behind a real barrier, not a pretend one, and holds a wonderland of native plants and animals.

What was once wasteland now blooms. I watched a monk seal snooze on the beach there and saw courting Laysan albatrosses dance. Just offshore, baby humpback whales entertained me with playful breaches.

There's no arguing that Kaena Point is a jewel, a marvel of rebounding nature. But how can residents or visitors enjoy it? People here on the North Shore just shake their heads when I say my car was vandalized at Kaena Point.

"You left it THERE?" they say. Then they tell me a worse story of what happened to their car at some other trailhead.

THIS is the third car hit in my family in a year and a half. The worst two were at trailheads. What do we do now? Stop hiking? Rent a car when we go on a hike? Hire a guard? Not one of these ideas is reasonable.

What is reasonable is for government agencies to work together to enforce gate rules and make trailheads safe. I know funds are tight. But what good does it do to spend money on pseudo-barriers when people can easily drive around them? And how can we taxpayers justify spending money to maintain nature parks that we're afraid to use?

I am appalled at how many people pointed out how lucky I am that the brick was thrown at my car window instead of at my head.

Clean, safe parks and trailheads on Oahu should not be an April Fool's joke.

Susan Scott is a marine science writer and author of three books about Hawaii's environment. Her Ocean Watch column appears Monday in the Star-Bulletin.

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