Kalaupapa Regulations Enforced
Peninsula exposure gives public misinformation.
Despite signs telling visitors of the county regulations, hikers continue to visit Kalauapa unannounced.
By Jennifer Smith
An overabundance of recent media exposure for Kalaupapa has left the public with a misconception about the accessibility of the peninsula. Residents, administrators, and National Parks Service (NPS) personnel clarified during last Tuesday’s monthly meeting that Kalaupapa is not open to the public, except through permit or by taking part in Damien Tours.
The meeting also provided updates on preparations for upcoming developments and facility transitions that will occur in the next few months, including a visit from Senator J. Kalani English.
State lawmakers recently approved a resolution, SCR 208, that offers an apology to the people who were quarantined in Kalaupapa after being diagnosed with Hansen’s Disease. The resolution acknowledges the hardships and isolation endured by the residents of Kalaupapa, who were forcibly quarantined between 1866 and 1969.
Sen. English helped to introduce the bill and asked to attend August’s monthly meeting to read it to the residents.
Monk Seal Births
Kalaupapa continues to be a prime birthing place for monk seals, according to Eric Brown, marine biologist for Parks Services.
Five pups were born this year, which accounted for over half of the total monk seals born in the entire state. Brown said the mothers typically dwell in the Main Hawaiian Islands (MHI), and when they become pregnant they head to Kalaupapa to give birth.
Since 1997, 38 monk seal births have taken place near the peninsula, which Brown attributes largely to healthy fish communities and the remote location. “You don’t see fish communities like this in Main Hawaiian Islands,” he said.
Unfortunately, despite promising numbers in Kalaupapa, such as the recent delivery of a pup by the youngest known monk seal mother, at four years old, the monk seal population in the MHI continues to be “pretty abysmal,” Brown said.
NPS workers reminded residents and visitors to remain aware of the monk seals presence and keep a distance, to keep the animals wild.
A state mandate has ordered the nearly full Kalaupapa landfill to close by the end of this year. With no plans to open a new landfill, NPS Facility Manager Steve Luppert has taken on the hefty task of figuring out how to manage the peninsula’s waste.
“It can all be done,” Luppert said, but added that “we are going to have some growing pains.”
The main focus is on recycling and composting as much of the area’s waste as possible. While recycling is now voluntary, come January 1, Luppert said everybody will be doing it.
Luppert and Student Conservation Association intern Brooke Jarvis are currently working on preparations for a new recycling and composting facility. Materials for the facility are expected to arrive on the July 19 barge. Three permanent positions will be added to assist with the new waste management program.
Brown has also been working with three other NPS workers to look into the archeological significance of areas near the Kalaupapa harbor.
“No decisions have been made” concerning dredging near the pier and harbor, according to Stephen Prokop, NPS Superintendent. However, Congress has appropriated up to $12 million for long term repairs, but what that will entail is yet to be determined.
Several residents have noticed people fishing and diving at night. NPS workers said they will enforce the law if individuals are found taking resources out of season.
NPS is also continuing to regulate hunting on the peninsula. New flags have been purchased to designate when and where hunting takes place, and to ensure that archaeological sites are not disturbed.
Prokop recently met with congressional staffers in Honolulu. “They continue to be very interested in Kalaupapa and supporting it in every way,” he said. The elected officials encouraged residents to write letters about issues they are encountering, such as flight difficulties with Pacific Wings.
The U.S. Coast Guard scheduled a “Safety Stand Down Day” last Wednesday. The day provided emergency situation practice for the coast guard staff and included the landing of a helicopter on the peninsula. Prokop described the day as a “show and tell of the coast guard’s capabilities.”
A trail crew from Hawaii Volcanoes National Park will make two visits to Molokai this summer to work on the Pali trail switch backs and to assist with vegetation clearing.
The next Kalaupapa monthly meeting will be held on July 8 at 11:30 a.m. in McVeigh Hall.