HONOLULU (KHON2) — It has been four months since ‘No Parking’ signs went up at popular stops along the Road to Hana on Maui. The signs were installed at seven locations after cars were parking on the highway, causing a traffic nightmare on the narrow highway.
The signs went up in mid-June, during the peak of the summer tourism, and residents said thousands of cars continue to drive the Road to Hana daily, but other than less traffic, the quiet community has noticed something else.
“[The signs], it really did curb the volume of illegal parking right away; coupled with the community signage, that gives a little bit more details as to why they don’t want to park or trespass here. It really helped to bring the number of emergency incidents down,” explained Hana resident Napua Hueu, who works with the Hana Highway Regulation.
‘No Parking’ signs went up at Bamboo Forest, Twin Falls, Waikamoi Stream Bridge, Ching’s Pond, Pua’a Ka’a Park, Waikani Stream Bridge and Hanawi Stream Bridge.
Before the state shut down in March 2020, there were 12 rescues reported by the Maui Fire Department (MFD) in East Maui; eight of the rescues happened at Bamboo Forest. A few months later, East Maui was closed to residents only. Rescues were quiet for months until visitors were welcomed back in October 2020, and MFD rescues resumed at Twin Falls and Bamboo Forest.
In February 2021, a California woman died after she was swept out to sea by a flash flood at Waioka, and a few weeks later, two men died after they were swept away by a flash flood at Waikamoi.
MFD confirmed rescues in these areas have been low since June, but they said it has been difficult to determine if less rescues are due to the ‘No parking’ signs, weather, visitor traffic or resident education.
“The ‘No parking’ signs help to diminish the probability of people parking in these areas and trespassing at these sites,” explained Hueu. “With the signs, we actually haven’t seen any severe cases of rescues having to be done at Bamboo Forest.”
Hueu said there are still some visitors who park further ahead and walk on the narrow highway, creating a traffic hazard, but said the overall traffic situation has improved. The community continues to educate visitors and warn them of dangers along the 52-miles of highway and off-the-beaten-path areas.
“We have implemented more community signage that discourages walking on the busy highway and trying to give them information about why it’s not appropriate for them to access these sites and the amounts of emergency rescues and dangers that are present at these various sites,” Hueu explained.
She said a perfect example is Twin Falls, which continues to limit the number of visitors and parking daily.
“They’ve seen a definite decrease in emergency rescue scenarios and a higher quality visitor experience,” Hueu said. “So, we really want to commend them for all the self-initiated work that they’ve done to help bring this concept of visitor management to life here in East Maui.”
Hueu said another area of concern is Kaihalulu. On Thursday, Oct. 7, MPD rescued a 69-year-old visitor after she fell off the trail trying to access the beach area.
“We recently had the Maui Visitors Bureau come to the table, and they’re going to do their best to bring all of the private property owners to the table as well and impress that they need to do enforcement there and to help communicate the dynamics of Kaihalulu,” she explained.
She hopes more signage will be put up to educate visitors about trespassing issues involved with the area and the dangers of attempting to visit Kaihalulu. For now, there is legal parking to access Kaihalulu, but parking stalls are meant for the Hana Ballpark.
“It’s hard to regulate illegal parking there,” Hueu explained. “The officers don’t necessarily have the tools to move visitors out of the way because those are legal parking stalls, and so we’re working with Maui Visitors Bureau to help curate the Visitor Information personnel pilot project.”
She said the project will help survey whether parking is essential there.
“Monitoring the essential needs of those parking stalls would help alleviate the potential for them to trespass. We’re very much encouraging the Visitors Bureau, the state and the county to implement this Visitor Information personnel project, which would help curb that illegal parking and then subsequently eliminate the potential for trespassing — which would eliminate the probability for emergency rescue needs and strain on our county resources,” Hueu added.
MFD also said they do not condone trespassing on private property for any recreational purpose by the general public, and they strongly recommend for hikers to stay on marked trails open to the public.