HA’ENA – A natural disaster and pandemic forced the problem, and now Hawai’i is at the forefront of regenerative tourism, tourism reimagining and adaptive management, according to the State Department of Lands and natural resources.

At Ha’ena State Park on the North Coast, adaptive management has shifted into high gear after the historic 2018 floods that shut down 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 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 the Hui Maka’ainana o Makana, which now manages reservations and parking and a shuttle service to and from the park.

“This shows that we can be innovative and not only reduce the impacts of visitors on our resources, our neighbors and our rural communities, but also empower them to help us with management,” said DSP administrator Curt Cottrell. “We know the state can’t do it alone, and we need to engage and collaborate with community partners. “

Ha’ena, the gateway to Napali Coast State Wilderness Park, is now able, through reservation and parking controls, to limit the number of daily visits to the two parks to 900 people, down from 2,000 or more. more before the flood.

“There is no single recipe for how best to manage sensitive cultural and natural resources and a fluctuating tourism industry,” Cottrell said. “(There are) a lot 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.

The tourism industry has fluctuated 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.

“During the COVID-19 pandemic, we have increased fees for parking, entry, camping and lodging” at state parks, he said. “Our fees have increased to align with the fees of other state park units in the US. We can now generate more revenue with fewer visitors to return to our parks,” Cottrell said.

In Ha’ena, the DLNR has expanded a 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 (taro) system in the park for over two decades, and with the number of line descendants involved, this kind of adaptive management makes perfect sense.

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

“This is a precedent because a portion of the funds generated by this integrated shuttle, parking and entry system will remain here in the park,” said Chipper Wichman, longtime resident of the North Shore and one of the founding directors of hui. “Creating community-based and culturally anchored jobs for our community to take care of this area is so important. “

The reopening of Ha’ena State Park in 2019 was heralded as a “new day”.

Wichman, who is also president of the National Tropical Botanical Garden, said, “It really is regenerative tourism. You hear this buzzword often, but here the rubber meets the road. To see some of the money generated stay in Ha’ena to create jobs and take care of natural and cultural resources has been our dream for over 30 years, and now it finally is.

Well-known travel writers and broadcasters have visited Kaua’i in recent months to chronicle regenerative tourism in Ha’ena.

PBS is planning a segment for its “Travel Detective” program hosted by travel 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.