HONOLULU – Though they had been given notice last week, when clean-up teams arrived at a half dozen illegal camps on public lands yesterday, the occupants of three camps strung together seemed surprised they had to move. Such are the challenges of dealing with dozens of homeless camps, in multiple locations, on lands managed by DLNR.
Operations to remove illegal camps this week occurred on land under Division of State Parks jurisdiction off Kapaa Quarry Road, at Kapena Falls, and at Diamond Head State Monument. Earlier this fall, crews cleaned out dozens of camps along the shoreline at Sand Island State Recreation Area. These are four of the most popular places where people have, for years, illegally occupied public lands.
“We’re supposed to be doing natural resource management. Instead, we are trying to manage very difficult human sociological problems. It is a law enforcement situation. It is a management headache. It costs a lot of money to clean up these camps,” commented David Smith, the administrator of the DLNR Division of Forestry and Wildlife (DOFAW).
At Kawainui Marsh, the state’s largest wetland and home to numerous species of native birds, DOFAW attempts to keep illegal camps cleared. Smith said, “Quite frankly these camps are like hazmat sites. You see needles, human waste, and dead animals. It’s quite disgusting what we find sometimes. It takes a toll on our employees. Dealing with these situations detracts from our primary mission of natural and cultural resource protection and management.”
After illegal campers are given notice of an imminent cleanup by officers from the DLNR Division of Conservation and Resources Enforcement (DOCARE) and DLNR’s homeless coordinator, occupants typically pack-up a few things and leave tons of trash behind. After operations at places like Diamond Head many often sit across