The state Department on Land and Natural Resources is affirming its commitment to making sure that residents drive the process for developing a plan to better manage rural Pololu Valley, which in recent years has been overrun by visitors.
“Everyone is recognizing the overuse of Pololu and the community wanting to do something about it,” said Jackson Bauer, DLNR’s Division of Forestry And Wildlife liaison with the community in a release issued last week. “We’ve been meeting with the community, many of whom are lineal descendants of Pololu, so they have deep connections to the area. Brainstorming led to the great idea for having onsite stewardship. That’s the model we always want to follow; empowering communities to lead their own initiatives.”
The state legislature appropriated $500,000 to kickstart a planning process for the valley.
DOFAW has jurisdiction over the trail, a small parking area for fewer than 12 cars, and the cliff dropping down to the ocean, but DLNR and lawmakers said whatever plan is developed should come from the community.
The community-initiated stewardship program has made it possible for residents to positively engage visitors, educate them about the area, warn them of hazards and ask for them to behave respectfully.
State Rep. David Tarnas, who represents Kohala, said Pololu residents experience the impacts of overuse by visitors every day. He said he’s hopeful those residents will guide the development of a new plan for the area.
“I am grateful for the opportunity to support the community’s vision of leadership and stewardship of Pololū, and I encourage everyone in the community to actively participate in this planning process,” Tarnas said. I look forward to seeing the entire and original intent of protecting Pololu, as an initiative driven by the community, coming to fruition.”
DOFAW is in the process of selecting a consultant to help facilitate the community engagement.
“Pololu was never meant to be a visitor attraction. It has no infrastructure and just happens to be at the end of the road and is very scenic,” Bauer said. “The community-stewardship initiative is already showing evidence of success as more engagement with visitors means they’ll understand and hopefully respect the place in a more meaningful way. This program was and is community-driven, and we’re eager to see what they come up with next.”
Michael Tsai covers local and state politics for Spectrum News Hawaii.