State enforcement officers warn hikers that restricted watershed in Hilo is off limits
Traveling beyond closed signs at a collection of waterfalls some refer to as “Narnia” in the Hilo Restricted Watershed is illegal without a permit or hunting license.
But many of the hikers contacted today by officers from the Hawaiʻi Island Branch of the DLNR Division of Conservation and Resources Enforcement, claimed to be unaware of the rules.
Just outside Hilo, the trail to the site traverses’ private property before crossing into the Hilo Forest Reserve and the Hilo Restricted Watershed section, according to state officials. Much of the area’s drinking water supply originates in the watershed.
DLNR officials say disinformation continues to be displayed by numerous social media sites and posts. While a review of online posts, by the DLNR, shows many travel sites do note the area’s closure, the same sites provide explicit directions on how to reach it and the sights illegal hikers might see along the way.
“We will actively be working through the DLNR Communications Office to encourage travel sites and blogs to remove all mentions of ‘Narnia,’ as far too many people are ignoring closures and no-trespassing signs,” said DOCARE Hawaiʻi Island Branch Chief Lawrence “Junior” Terlep.
This morning five DOCARE officers were stationed at the entrance to the area, to educate rather than enforce.
DOCARE Lt. Verl Nakama explained, “This is the first step in curbing the tremendous amount of unpermitted entry into this area. Now that word is out, those who trespass in the future could be cited.”
The first pair of people contacted by officers were told not to go beyond the restricted watershed sign on the banks of the Wailuku River. Less than an hour later DOCARE officers spotted them climbing up and toward the waterfalls.
“Unfortunately, many visitors in particular don’t understand the risks they face if they fall or go into the water when the river is raging,” said officer Craig Dente. Another officer hailed them to return to safety and the DOCARE team had what Dente described, as a “frank” discussion with the couple. They left the area with a warning, but no citation.
“It’s hard to overcome the power of social media, even when a site includes closure information,” remarked DOCARE Chief Jason Redulla. “We’ve seen a degree of success in reducing illegal entry to places like the long-closed Sacred Falls or White Road, by getting travel sites to completely eliminate any mentions of these restricted or closed areas. We hope our efforts to encourage reputable sites and bloggers to do the same with ‘Narnia’ will result in greatly reduced numbers of trespassers there.”
This would be good news to the neighborhood below, which is the entry point to ‘Narnia.’ For the past three years no-parking signs have been up trying to keep visitors from blocking the single lane road by parking in driveways, in people’s yards, or in such way two-way traffic is blocked.
One travel site begins its “Narnia” description, “Probably one of the coolest and not so well-known Big Island hikes is going to ‘Narnia,'” followed by, “**Note** The Division of Forestry and Wildlife (DLNR) has closed access to ‘Narnia’ and only access is by permit process, citations will be given for hikers caught going to or swimming around this area.”
Another, nationally recognized hiking site begins with the closure but then includes a map for directions. “INDEFINITE CLOSURE: The waterways above the J7…are collectively known as ‘Narnia’ and are part of the Hilo Restricted Watershed Section of the Hilo Forest Reserve. Access is restricted and requires a permit for entry…the map shown here goes to the waterfalls and does not require wading. You can cross the river to get closer to the falls, but it is at least a few feet deep and dangerous after rains.”
“At least this site mentions the potential dangers and the closure, but we’d like them to eliminate mentions of ‘Narnia’ altogether,” Chief Redulla added, “as we know if something is online many people will ignore the rules in search of their next adventure. They do so at the risk of paying large fines or getting hurt.”
DOCARE officers contacted about 20 would-be “Narnia” hikers today, all of whom, except for the first couple, turned back at the river’s edge. Dente said, “There are plenty of beautiful places to visit and no sense in risking your safety, the local water supply, or getting a citation by entering a closed area.”