Community management approved for Ha’ena State Park. Photo courtesy of DLNR

The 2018 floods in Kaua’i and the ongoing pandemic forced the problem, and now Hawai’i is at the forefront of regenerative tourism, tourism reimagining and adaptive management, according to officials at the ‘State. These are the hot new buzzwords being used around the world as destinations begin to recover from the COVID pandemic.

At Hā’ena State Park on Kaua’i, adaptive management has shifted into high gear after the historic 2018 floods that shut off much of the north coast for a year and a half. The DLNR division of state parks accelerated the implementation of the park master plan and took advantage of a total break in visits to redesign and rebuild the parking lot; build on a strong engagement with the community and direct descendants of the region; and develop partnerships with others, such as Hui Maka’āinana o Makana, which now manages reservations, parking and a shuttle service to the park.

DSP Administrator Curt Cottrell said: “It shows that we can be innovative and not only reduce the impacts visitors have on our resources, our neighbors and our rural communities, but also empower them to help us in the process. management. We know that the state cannot do it alone and we must engage and collaborate with community partners.

Hāʻena, the gateway to the famous and immensely popular Nāpali Coast State Wilderness Park, is now able, through reservation and parking controls, to cap the number of daily visits to the two parks at 900 people, down from 2 000 or more before the flood.

Community management approved for Ha’ena State Park. Photo courtesy of DLNR

“There is no single recipe for best managing sensitive cultural and natural resources and a fluctuating tourism industry,” says Cottrell. “Lots of moving parts to work with and that’s the adaptation part. We often don’t know how something is going to work until we launch it, and we learn that it requires monitoring and adjustment.

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The tourism industry has certainly fluctuated a lot since the start of 2020. This has provided additional opportunities to refine, discover, rebuild and reinvent tourism. A key element has been the institution of a pay-to-play paradigm.

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Cottrell explained, “During the COVID-19 pandemic, we increased the fees for parking, entry, camping and accommodation. Our fees have increased to align with fees for other state park units in the United States. We can now generate more income with fewer visitors to reintegrate into our parks. In Hāʻena, we also expanded the partnership with Hui Maka’ainana o Makana, which is a component of the master plan. We wanted to move more towards community management of visitors because they know what they can handle. The hui had already restored the lo’i kalo system to the park for over two decades, and with the number of line descendants involved, this kind of adaptive management makes perfect sense.

Community management approved for Ha’ena State Park. Photo courtesy of DLNR

DSP is exploring more community management partnerships in places like Kealakekua Bay State Historic Park on Hawai’i Island.

Chipper Wichman, president of the National Tropical Botanical Garden, longtime resident of the North Rim and one of the founding directors of HUI commented, “This is a precedent because some of the funds generated by this integrated shuttle system, parking lot and entrance will remain here in the park. Creating community and culturally anchored jobs for our community to take care of this area is so important. ”

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The reopening of Hāʻena State Park in 2019 was heralded as a “new day”. Wichman says now that the pandemic is fading, hopefully it’s another new day. “It’s really regenerative tourism. You hear this buzzword often, but here the rubber meets the road. To see some of the money generated stay in Hāʻena to create jobs and take care of natural and cultural resources has been our dream for over 30 years and now it is finally happening.

Community management approved for Ha’ena State Park. Photo courtesy of DLNR

Dozens of national media organizations are taking note of the Hawaiian-style “new days”. Well-known travel writers and broadcasters have visited Kaua’i in recent months to chronicle regenerative tourism in Hāʻena.

PBS is planning a segment for its Travel detective program hosted by tourist journalist Peter Greenberg. Focusing on the hidden gems, Greenberg and his production team toured the park in June. “It’s a great idea because the community is involved. It is about educating the local population and visitors. The concept of, we want more visitors, we want them to spend more, we want longer stays, doesn’t work anymore, ”Greenberg said.

He added: “The problem we have globally is the law. People think they have the right to do whatever they want in these special places. They only have the right to be responsible. Once they are in charge, they can be entitled to a great deal of experience. We had reached the point of diminishing returns and that is why community management, adaptive management, regenerative tourism; must come into play.

Cottrell concluded: “Ultimately our visitors will have better experiences, we will generate the necessary income and ideally the communities around our parks will be less affected. ”

Community management approved for Ha’ena State Park. Photo courtesy of DLNR


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