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Court dates set for alleged hike trespassers

July 16, 2017 - 12:05am

HILO — Court dates have been set for the 48 adults cited July 8 for trespassing into the closed Kohala Forest Reserve and Kohala Restricted Watershed.

Deborah Ward, spokeswoman for the state Department of Land and Natural Resources, said in a email that Aug. 8, 15 and 29 and Sept. 12 and 19 have been set for those cited for simple trespass.

“We have been told that the courts normally have been issuing fines for people found guilty of $150,” Ward said. Those cited will face a judge at South Kohala District Court in Waimea.

Steve Bergfeld, Department of Forestry and Wildlife Hawaii Island branch manager, said access to the Department of Agriculture’s Upper Hamakua Ditch Trail, also known as the White Road hike, was closed to the public after the 6.7-magnitude Kiholo earthquake on Oct. 15, 2006, which was followed by an additional 6.0-magnitude shake just seven minutes later. Fortunately, there were no deaths directly attributed to the temblor, which caused at least $200 million in property damage.

Bergfeld said the forest reserve “suffered damage including cracks in the trail.”

Although illegal, the hike has been popularized via social media.

Photos and videos can be found on just about every social media website, and a video on YouTube’s HawaiiStyleLiving channel shows snippets of a breathtakingly beautiful but obviously hazardous hike set to an acoustic version of the popular Iration song “One Way Track.” The video shows the trail at one point coming within a foot or two of a precipitous drop of hundreds of feet into Waipio Valley. Hikers are shown walking lengthwise, tightrope style, over foot-wide metal pipes and sloshing through a small cave-like opening in the earth to reach a water flume on the Kohala Ditch that drops diagonally 35 feet into a small, shallow pool — the destination for most who take the illegal hike. They then slide down the flume at what appears to be breakneck speed, culminating in a splashdown. One man is shown smiling and flashing a shaka while standing next to a sign stating the area is off-limits to the public.

The video has received almost 200,000 views.

Bergfeld said the Kohala Restricted Watershed “is the domestic water supply for Waimea and the surrounding area.” He said hunters, hikers, gatherers and researchers can enter the Kohala Restricted Watershed with a permit issued by DOFAW. Bergfeld said hunters with permits are allowed “because of the beneficial effects of removing ungulates from a domestic water supply collection.”

However, Bergfeld noted, only those who can provide DOFAW with a written letter from the private landowners or leaseholders that they have permission to cross their property will be issued permits to access the White Road area of the Kohala Restricted Watershed.

Bergfeld said it is possible for someone to enter the Kohala Restricted Watershed without seeing a sign, but officers who cited the hikers July 8 said all admitted to crawling over two locked gates and ignoring “numerous closed and no trespassing signs.”

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