New proposal aims to crack down on illegal hikers

KHON - February 25, 2019
Nikki Schenfeld

HONOLULU (KHON2) - A new proposal is looking to get tough on hikers trespassing on off-limits trails.

There are thousands of hikes statewide; some are legal, others aren't.

Hundreds of people are rescued in Hawaii each year.

Hikers already face a fine. But now lawmakers are looking to add an extra fine for those that run into trouble on these illegal hikes, especially those who willingly disregard warning signs on a state public trail.

"Right now the current status of the law says that the agency who does the rescues, it says you may ask for reimbursement for the cost of the rescue— so we changed that to 'shall,'" said State Senator Mike Gabbard (D) Kapolei - Makakilo.

"In other words, the government agency shall charge you for however must it costs to be rescued and it just make sense," he said.

Sen. Gabbard sayid it costs around $1,500 for an air rescue, and Hawaii residents foot the bill.

"Your actions have consequences and so people need to take responsibility for their behavior. If you're going to break the law, if you're going to trespass, then you should suffer the consequences and it just doesn't seem fair to me that Hawaii taxpayers are having to pay for someone else's irresponsibility," Sen. Gabbard said.

In a story KHON2 did on Oct. 27, 2018, Honolulu Fire and Rescue averaged nearly one rescue a day to assist hikers in distress. From Jan. 1 to Oct. 27, 2018 there were already 291 rescues.

"Also keep in mind the folks that put their lives on the line to make some of these rescues," Sen. Gabbard said. "Why put their lives in danger for someone else's stupidity?"

According to the state's Na Ala Hele Trail and Access website, Oahu's Kolowalu Trail has been closed since last year due to a landslide. There's a chain rope to discourage people from going onto the trail. However, if you disregard it and end up needing assistance, you could be fined.

Sen. Gabbard says the first fine would be $500, followed by a $750 fine for the second offense and possibly a $1,000 fine for a third offense.

Honolulu Fire Department is against the bill because they don't want people to feel discouraged calling for help.

Honolulu Police Department submitted testimony supporting the bill stating...

"This bill would further discourage individuals by increasing penalties for unlawfully entering trails that were closed to the public."

- Stephen D. Gerona III (Captain Specialized Services Division)