The Environmental Education Society of Hawaii has a state permit and has set up a table at the trail head of the popular Kalalau Trail at the end of Kuhio Highway, where it has been operating for about four weeks.
The location is near the mythical house site of Lohiau, the volcano goddess Pele's Kauai lover.
On Saturday, two members of the Honolulu-based group were asking for donations from hikers and in turn providing a variety of items, depending on the size of the donation.
A $20 set of souvenirs commemorating the trail and hike included literature about the trail, stickers, a Na Pali T-shirt and other items.
Cash or a credit card imprint are taken and the items are mailed to buyers in an operation overseen at Kee by Christian Glynn of Hawaii Kai, vice president of the Environmental Education Society, and Sigi Sunstrom, another member.
"Five years ago at Diamond Head, legitimate environmental groups began handing out information, then T-shirt sellers saw it as an excuse to set up tables, and put well-meaning stuff out of the picture," Glynn said.
He said Kee offers a site for environmentally oriented groups such as the society to get a fresh start.
The group, he said, is offering advice to hikers on the condition of the trail and ocean dangers, offering basic first aid and handing out their own versions of the Kalalau Trail maps originally produced by the state Department of Land and Natural Resources.
"The state doesn't have the money to do programs that need to be done," Glynn said.
For $5, hikers are also offered a rainbow-colored certificate that shows they've hiked the trail. Two coolers hold chilled sodas and bottles of water that are given away to some or thrown in with the purchase of basic trail literature, for about $2.
Glynn said a mailing list collected over the past 30 days includes about 1,000 names. He said 200-300 hikers a day have gone past his table in the past month.
The group holds a two-week revocable permit from the state Parks Division.
"They are permitted activities," said Dan Quinn, an administrator with the Parks Division. "The permit is for sale and distribution of literature."
The Environmental Education Society may be at the Kee trail head for the long run, unless another group seeks a permit for the same spot.
Then, according to the rules, department Director Michael Wilson would determine if two groups could operate at the site at the same time or if another system of alternating use would be required.