DLNR: Protection of 'Āhihi-Kīna'u Natural Area Reserve to be supported by non-resident user fees

New rules go into effect on October 1st, a first for Hawai‘i’s Natural Area Reserves System

Starting October 1st, 2020, ‘Āhihi-Kīna‘u Natural Area Reserve will charge non-Hawai‘i residents a user-fee of $5.00 per vehicle. Two machines in the reserve’s parking lot accept credit or debit cards and produce the receipts that must be displayed on their dashboard while using the area. Use-fees paid by visitors will pay for infrastructure costs or projects that protect the reserve’s unique natural resources. Hawai‘i residents will not be charged but must still display a daily pass that will be generated from the same machines.

In 2018-2019, roughly 1,200 people each day visited the open portion of the reserve at Kanahena, with an additional 1,200 passing through the reserve on their way to Keone‘ō‘io (La Perouse Bay). It’s the third-most visited outdoor area on Maui, after Haleakalā National Park and ‘Īao Valley State Monument. Like those sites, the reserve must deal with the impacts of being so well-loved. Fees collected will pay for portable toilet maintenance and trash collection at Kanahena as well as Keone‘ō‘io, because the gravel parking lot Keone‘ō‘io sits on the reserve’s boundary.

Fees collected at the Kanahena parking lot will go directly into the Natural Area Reserve Special Fund, which supports natural resource maintenance and protection projects.  Potential projects include re-planting native dryland forest plants to reduce storm runoff onto coral reefs, and excluding non-native goats and deer along the eastern, or mauka border of the reserve.

Jeff Bagshaw of DLNR shares: “During one survey, we estimated about 50 honu (sea turtles) in ‘Āhihi bay that day. Compare 50 sea turtles to our daily average of 600-900 people in reserve waters. That means one sea turtle could be exposed to about 12-18 people every day. That’s a lot of underwater traffic. We tell people, when the parking lot is full, the ocean is full.”

The management plan for the reserve was developed with input from a community advisory board, and it includes limiting the number of cars that can park as well as implementing the use-fee plan. A public hearing regarding the proposed fee plan was held on November 10, 2016 on Maui. After replying to public comments, the proposed rules were reviewed by the Board of Land and Natural Resources (BLNR) on March 10, 2017 in a public meeting, then signed by the Governor on September 8, 2017.

“Establishment of these fees was identified as a high priority by our citizen’s advisory group, and we are very pleased to now be able to have that system in place to support resource protection”, said Scott Fretz, Maui Branch Manager with the Division of Forestry and Wildlife (DOFAW).

Maui residents and visitors are reminded they cannot park on the road or shoulder in the reserve for any length of time. Any cars parked on the reserve road, shoulder or outside the marked stalls at the Kanahena parking lot will be ticketed and towed at the owner’s expense.

Created in 1973, ‘Āhihi-Kīna‘u was Hawai‘i’s first Natural Area Reserve and will now be the first to ask visitors to share the costs in preserving this resource into the future.  Natural Area Reserves are created to protect unique ecosystems and endangered species of Hawai‘i from threats and provide educational opportunities for users.  These sensitive areas can easily become overwhelmed by use. Because a road bisects ‘Āhihi-Kīna‘u and numerous people use the open area, its budget must include monies that help deal with human impacts. 

Complete administrative rules governing all state natural area reserves can be found at: https://dlnr.hawaii.gov/dofaw/files/2018/02/Chp-13-209.pdf

The management plan for ‘Āhihi-Kīna‘u NAR can be found at: https://dlnr.hawaii.gov/ecosystems/files/2013/07/Ahihi-Kinau-NAR-Management-Plan.pdf

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