KAILUA-KONA -- The Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR) has added its first on-site resource ranger at Kekaha Kai (Kona Coast) State Park, with the help of funding from the Hawaii Tourism Authority. Luisa Castro is the most recently hired park resource ranger, who started July 18.
DLNR now has four on-site resource rangers in two state parks and a natural area reserve. The program began out of a need to protect fragile marine and coastal resources from damage by very large numbers of visitors who did not realize they were having a negative impact.
“We welcome Luisa to our team. Our goal is to place rangers in especially sensitive locations, such as at Kekaha Kai, where they will help protect and monitor the natural, historical and cultural resources, encourage voluntary compliance with area rules and provide information and a presence at our facilities,” said Young.
Rangers serve multiple purposes in the field. In addition to disseminating information about safety and proper etiquette in a sensitive area, rangers relay information gathered from public interaction in the field back to land managers and enforcement officers.
In this way, DLNR is better informed when addressing public concerns over safety and resource use/degradation.
Because of their on-site presence rangers provide an extra set of eyes and ears for the Department's enforcement branch as well as local police departments and emergency medical services.
On-site resource rangers help DLNR to protect the natural and historic resources by educating park users about how to safely enjoy these areas -- without destroying the very beauty they came to see.
"DLNR's ranger program is a pilot at this time. If they continue to be successful, as we expect they will, DLNR will be looking internally at making it a permanent program -- not necessarily at every state park but where appropriate,” said Peter Young, DLNR chairperson. “Other potential locations might be at Diamond Head State Monument, or at Ka‘ena Point State Park and Natural Area Reserve.”
Castro, a resident of Kona, is a certified first responder and a certified swimming pool operato r. She has 20 years’ experience as a ranger in other national, state, and county parks in Hawaii and on the mainland. She was also a volunteer for the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation and also worked as a volunteer in Costa Rica to monitor and work with leatherback turtles.
She says, “My job is to help educate people about our precious resources, so that their visit will not only be more enjoyable, but that they will appreciate and treat with respect what the people of Hawaii hold dear. I look forward to protecting and preserving the Hawaiian culture and the ‘aina.”
All rangers receive formal and on the job training from DLNR personnel other agencies such as the American Red Cross on topics such as; safety, first aid, CPR, cultural and natural resource protection and management, historic preservation and park laws and rules.
Kekaha Kai State Park is a scenic wilderness park. It is on Queen Kaahumanu Highway, 2.6 miles north of Keahole Airport.
There are two separate sections of the park, at Mahai‘ula and at Kua Bay. The Mahai‘ula section has a sandy beach and dune, offering opportunities for swimming and beach-related activities. A picnic area includes tables and portable toilets.
A 4.5-mile hike north through this wilderness park on the historic coastal trail, Ala Kahakai, leads to Kua Bay. Midway, a hike to the summit of Pu‘u Ku‘ili, a 342-foot high cinder cone, offers an excellent view of the coastline. The Kua Bay section at north end of park offers beach-related activities.
In October 2005 DLNR completed a new, approximately one and a half-mile long access road to Kua Bay and the Manini‘owali section of Kekaha Kai State Park, where there is a new parking areas at Kua Bay, new accessible comfort station and picnic tables.
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For more information, media contact:
DLNR Public Information Specialist
Phone: (808) 587-0320