Man clashes with state over saving Kauai trail


POSTED: Sunday, November 23, 2008

LIHUE » A man who took it upon himself to help repair Kauai's world-famous north shore is facing a government fine for his efforts.

Bill Summers, 42, is accused of bow hunting without a permit on Kauai's Na Pali Coast Trail, where he says he intended to kill goats that contribute to the trail's erosion and create unsafe hiking conditions. He also was cited for having a weapon on state property.

He plans to fight the citations in court Jan. 7. They each carry fines of up to $500 and 30 days in jail.

“;I'm not going to pay the fine,”; he said. “;They've annoyed me too greatly. If they're not going to let me do it, they're going to have to go out there and do it themselves.”;

The state argues Summers is not registered as a volunteer with the state and that he's not authorized to do trail maintenance, Department of Land and Natural Resources spokeswoman Deborah Ward said.

Longtime trail advocate Arius Hopman said a little cooperation with the state could go a long way.

“;They could easily turn this thing around by legitimizing Bill,”; he said. “;He has spent his savings and time preserving people's health and possibly saving lives. He's like a Zen master out there with the trail.”;

The state allows daily archery hunting at Na Pali Coast State Wilderness Park year-round with a permit, but it doesn't authorize rifle hunting due to safety issues, Ward said. The state has closed the trail in the past for approved rifle hunts, but it didn't do so this year.

“;We need more hunters out there, plain and simple,”; Summers said. “;The first step is reducing the number of goats and hogs.”;

With no natural predators, the populations of feral goats and pigs are spiraling out of control, he said.

Nearly three times as many hunting permits were issued annually from 2004 through 2007 than were issued this year, according to state records.

Between 76 and 128 goats were killed annually in those four years, compared with 17 so far in 2008. The number of pig killings has also dropped, with none hunted in 2008.

The non-native mammals loosen the topsoil above the winding, 11-mile path. Rainfall flushes the unstable soil down the sides of the deep, narrow valleys and sea-carved cliffs, altering the trail and dumping the remainder into streams and the ocean.

“;Periods of rain stain the ocean brown,”; Summers said. “;It's all washing away. It's incredible how much is being lost.”;

The goats also chew down the vegetative cover to the point where it dries up in dies and the summer, increasing the chance that erosion will occur during the wet season, Summers said.

Gov. Linda Lingle has released $2 million for a grant to improve the first two miles of the trail.