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The Conversation

Community Organizations Say Reservation System at Hāʻena State Park Is Running Smoothly

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It's a partnership that’s been in the works for 20 years, and it signals the next phase in the Division of State Parks' Master Plan for Hāʻena, Kauaʻi. This summer, the community-led organization Hui Makaʻainana o Makana took over the reins of the parking and entrance reservation system at Hāʻena State Park.

While it was once common for the park to see 2,000 visitors a day, the new reservation system only allows for 900 people.

The Conversation caught up with Kirsten Hermstad, executive director of the Hui, and Joel Guy of the Hui’s partner organization, The Hanalei Initiative, to see how the system is going.

"It's actually run really smooth. We did have a little ramp-up period prior to the beginning of COVID," Hermstad said. "On a whole, it's been amazingly successful and everybody is having a better experience. The place is being cared for, the people are being cared for, and the visitor is having a better experience. They're not fighting for parking, they're able to get into the park in a relaxed way and enjoy it with less people in it."

The Hanalei Initiative operates the Kauaʻi North Shore Shuttle System, which provides transportation to the park.

"Nobody should be showing up looking to get into the park. It's all reservation-based. Unfortunately for some, it's sold out pretty quickly, especially the vehicle options. The shuttles do have a little more allocation of capacity. So if people want to come out there they can probably get a shuttle within a couple days, but the parking lot's sold out right away," Guy said.

The park contains the only land access to the Nā Pali Coast State Park and its famous Kalalau Trail.

Alan Carpenter of the Division of State Parks, under the Department of Land and Natural Resources, said they are looking for opportunities to implement the "Hāʻena" model across the state. Their first target is Waiʻānapanapa State Park in Hana, Maui.

Guy praised state parks administrators, Carpenter and Curt Cottrell, for their foresight and management, and also highlighted the benefits of a community-led management system.

"When you have a community that's managing the system, then when it affects the rest of the place, we hear about it. Our phones ring off the hook from people that are pissed because of the impacts. So then you can react and then you can adjust and try to work on creating solutions for those areas."

These interviews aired on The Conversation on Sept. 13, 2021. Click here for park reservations. Click here for overnight hiking permits.

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