Updated: November 23, 2022
A rapid increase of visitors is being reported at the historic Pololū Valley in North Kohala on Hawaiʻi Island where community members and industry officials are exploring ways to mitigate impacts to natural and cultural resources.
In response to requests from the community, the Hawaiʻi Tourism Authority is funding the Pololū Trail Steward Program – a pilot project in collaboration with KUPU, Nā Ala Hele Trails and Access Program, and the lineal descendent community of Pololū, Makanikahio and neighboring ahupuaʻa.
The goal is to utilize local “stewards” to assist with interpreting the natural and cultural history of the area, as well as mitigate unwanted behaviors and ensure safety. Partners hope that this project can serve as a model for collaborations with local communities to manage the impact of tourism on Hawaiʻi’s natural and cultural resources, to include steering visitors towards safe, responsible behaviors while enjoying the destination.
The Na Ala Hele Trails and Access Program, which is part of the Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources will be hiring four part-time stewards, through KUPU, for the pilot project. From August 2021 through Jan. 31, 2022, the stewards will assist with visitor management, safety, and trail maintenance as well as sharing their knowledge of the Pololū area with visitors.
Pololū Valley is one of the hotspots community members and stakeholders identified as part of HTA’s Hawaii Island Destination Management Action Plan (DMAP). Action A in the DMAP calls to protect and preserve culturally significant places and hotspots.
Here on Maui, the HTA published its Maui Nui Destination Management Action Plan in March, in which a number of the hotspot areas and sites listed are either located in Hāna or along the road to Hāna. The document calls for HTA to advocate for increased enforcement of current laws.
The Hawaiʻi Tourism Authority is advising visitors to East Maui to join a tour from a permitted tour company instead of driving on their own along the Hāna Highway or visiting other areas on Maui. The suggestion is the latest recommendation made by visitor industry officials amid an increase in tourism, illegal parking along the scenic route, and unsafe pedestrian crossing along the highway.